The Top 50: CementWorks

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The CementWorks has always prided itself on its creative moxie. And so the current regulatory climate may have affected the agency more than it did others, CementWorks partner Susan Miller admits.

“Everything’s under the magnifying glass now,” she says. “There’s less room to operate in, which means it’s more difficult to make a product stand out in a way that hasn’t been done before. Companies don’t want to find themselves on the front page of The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal for the wrong reason.”

It speaks volumes about CementWorks’ creativity —and tact—that the agency produced some of its most heralded work under that regulatory cloud during the last 12 months. According to Miller, in 2006, CementWorks experienced its third straight year of 20% growth. It increased its staff from 50 full-timers in mid-2006 to the current 85, and moved into new space. At the same time, the agency didn’t experience too many growing pains.

Some of the success should be attributed to the firm’s global bent. Over the last year, CementWorks continued to grow its Indigenus global network, recently adding an outpost in Poland. Further expansion should follow in the months ahead, with Australia, Asia and Latin America topping the list of candidates. “It’s driven by where clients want and need us to be,” Miller notes. Around 35% to 40% of the agency’s business is global in nature, but Miller sees room for improvement: “We’re not entirely there yet. Many of our competitors have more Xs on the map, so to speak.”

CementWorks strives to be equally diverse in its staff makeup. Miller estimates that 20% of the firm’s employees come from outside the United States. “That kind of diversity and cultural mix makes us a better agency,” she says. Last year, CementWorks hired art, production and project-management people from the consumer side of the business.

While CementWorks lost business when Huron was acquired by Pfizer, the firm made up for it elsewhere. It handled its first monster US launch for a major pharma company (HIV therapy Prezista, for Tibotec Therapeutics, a division of Ortho Biotech Products); the same company later awarded them the TMZ 125 assignment. New clients included the UK-based Genosis, which tapped the firm to launch its Fertell fertility test in both the consumer and professional markets. The agency established relationships with PDL BioPharma (for Cardene) and Targanta Therapeutics (for Oritavancin).

CementWorks’ association with UCB Pharma on a Crohn’s Disease treatment paid off when it won the UCB/Sanofi-Aventis co-promote Xyzal, an antihistamine. The company also added business from Bayer Diagnostics. “We had a combination of wins from pitches and organic growth. It’s nice to have it from both angles.”

While Miller declines to single out any of CementWorks’ work as particularly smart or innovative, she seems to take pride in a doing-more-with-less component of the firm’s work for Medicis Pharmaceutical.

“For Restylane, we produced a video for YouTube, which might’ve been one of the first videos [in the pharma business] developed specifically for online,” she says. “We didn’t have the budget for a big TV presence, so we made do with the resources we had. There was quite a nice return on our investment.”

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