The Top 50: Adient

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It was a year of change for 15-year-old Adient, part of WPP’s CommonHealth brood. The agency lost a lot and gained a lot (revenue was flat to slightly down), and “walked out of 2006 with a lot of strength,” says David Chapman, acting president of Adient and managing partner of CommonHealth network.

Three pieces of AstraZeneca business were lost: one brand didn’t get US approval, and promotion halted on two. Cephalon pulled out after the launch of Nuvigil, and president Guy Dess departed. “We spent the rest of the year building momentum,” Chapman says.

Adient had “incredible success” with its Johnson & Johnson client base, winning two new compounds—Ortho-McNeil’s hospital anti-infectives ceftobiprole and doripenem—to be launched this year.

“We [ended] 2006 with a fantastic range of J&J products, both prescription and OTC,” he notes. “I attribute that to strong account management and creative staff and great relationships.”

All CommonHealth agencies have access to a proprietary research engine that gathers reality-based insights. “Every agency starts from an informed reality that nobody else has (access to),” notes Chapman.

Formerly in Wayne, NJ, Adient moved to a Parsippany, NJ, space shared with its CommonHealth siblings. “This is the first time we’ve been able to see and work with a lot of our colleagues,” Chapman says. “It’s been a wonderfully fruitful time strategically and creatively.”
Chapman is often asked if clients worry about agency concentration on the same campus. “If we were in New York on different floors, no one would ask,” he notes. “In New Jersey, the skyscraper lays on its side.”

The “vast majority” of CommonHealth leaders are homegrown. Chapman will pass the reigns to an unnamed senior staff member of Adient “shortly.”

Chapman sees globalization as favorable. “Rather than thinking a drug ends at the Atlantic Ocean, we’re seeing a trend towards earlier consideration and more strategic development on a global basis,” he says. “Almost every client we had a major engagement with in 2006 ask[ed] us about global capabilities.…That’s an exciting opportunity.”

And while many note the decline of the blockbuster drug, Chapman’s criteria differ. “I think a blockbuster is anything that can give a patient [an] opportunity for [a] better life. We have to move away from thinking of it as a dollar value. Instead of looking for mass-market drugs it’s going to move into specialty markets.”

He also notes greater procurement pressure and a need for agencies to “rise above commodity mentality.”

“It’s impossible for a business that’s about creativity, thinking, and problem solving to put it into a 218 character field [on] a web site,” Chapman says. “We’ve tried to be creative when asked to submit in that fashion, but we question [if] that [is] a relationship we really want. Proving value proposition is our job and getting clients to intervene is a hurdle and a goal. The client-side marketing staff isn’t going to [intervene] unless they see the value from the agency. That’s our job.”

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