The Top 50: GSW Worldwide

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Last year was GSW Worldwide’s first full year as the leading force of within the Ventiv Communications business. “It was a real challenge to get our staff and organization to understand all of the different points of view they can now represent as part of the services offered to our clients,” says GSW Worldwide president Phil Deschamps. “It meant getting out of our own comfort zone and getting people to live up to being more than just the sum of our parts.”

In September 2005, pharma and biotech sales and marketing firm Ventiv Health announced plans to acquire GSW Worldwide parent network inChord Communications in a $185 million deal.
The merger yielded inVentiv Communications, currently led by former GSW Worldwide president Blane Walter. Despite the network name changes, the flow of work at GSW Worldwide remained uninterrupted. In fact, business has grown at a remarkable rate, Deschamps says. The agency’s DTC practice has produced innovative work in recent months, including spots for Roche’s antiviral Tamiflu, MGI Pharma’s post-chemotherapy anti-nausea treatment Aloxi and Ortho-McNeil Neurologics’ migraine/seizure drug Topamax.

GSW Worldwide launched the unbranded campaign for Tamiflu, tying advertising to Warner Brothers’ animated penguin film Happy Feet. The campaign featured TV ads and online patient education at

“It was the first ‘edutainment’ campaign, linking the entertainment industry to DTC,” Deschamps says. “It was really exciting and it was recognized throughout the industry.”

Deschamps also considers the agency’s work for Ortho-McNeil’s Topamax a major evolution.
“This is one of our most comprehensive assignments, where we basically do all of their marketing, from the professional stuff to the DTC to digital media,” he says. “It was the first real opportunity for us to demonstrate an integrated approach and how that can be synergistic. It was very successful and definitely an inflection point in the performance of that brand.” 

GSW Worldwide broke ground with the global platform for Eli Lilly’s schizophrenia treatment Zyprexa. “It was the first global campaign, to my knowledge, to get rewarded with a silver creative award,” Deschamps says. “It’s very rare that global campaigns get recognized for creative prowess, because they are usually very boring and very functional in nature. But we were able to find a real emotional hook for Zyprexa.”

Also among GSW Worldwide’s accomplishments, the agency was recognized as the top global supplier by Eli Lilly, among more than 6,000 global suppliers.

To meet the demand for the agency’s increasing workload, GSW Worldwide’s infrastructure has grown.

The agency launched its Pink Tank specialty group focused on marketing to women in July 2006.  Pink Tank acts as an integrated capability, partnering with the agency's client teams to provide better insight on how the agency can better connect with women who influence the healthcare market.

Marcee Nelson, executive creative director of GSW Worldwide and founder of Pink Tank, says, “There’s no question the important role women have in healthcare. Even when women are not the end users of the product, they still have a role in shaping decisions to buy or prescribe…We established Pink Tank to help companies understand those differences and to counsel them on how they can find the ‘female voice’ in their marketing efforts.”

Pink Tank is staffed with brand counselors with experience in psychology, patient advocacy and gender, and cultural studies. The team includes planners to provide insights into how women consumers think and behave and client services and creative staff to translate those insights into strategic approaches to effectively reach a female audience.

GSW Worldwide also opened the doors of a new 50-person office in Newtown, PA, last year.
The office is led by Mark Frank, EVP/general manager. Frank joined GSW Worldwide in 1998 after having served as a marketing director for Novartis Pharmaceuticals, where he was responsible for several brands in the neuroscience, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, oncology, and transplantation categories.

It is new additions, plus stability among GSW Worldwide’s senior team that has proved to be a winning combination for agency success, Deschamps says.

GSW Worldwide’s New York office, which opened in 2003, continues to thrive under leadership from president Art Chavez. And GSW Worldwide’s Columbus office has remained a solid home base, overseen by president Joe Daley.

Optimistic about the future, Deschamps says he feels business will continue to grow and diversify at GSW Worldwide.

“For example, we will be doing much more digital media work, more media planning work and more campaign integration work,” he says. “I expect the growth to come from parts of our business that traditionally were smaller than they now are. Being part of the inVentiv Health network allows us to tap into a wealth of perspectives offering the kinds of services in a way that makes our business even more stable than it was before.”

Being able to offer a vast array of services will be vital in an evolving marketplace, especially as the definition of good creative gets constantly updated, according to Deschamps.

“The definition of creative used to mean the great ads already out there,” he says. “I think that the healthcare industry has become much more comprehensive in its approach to creativity. I think that we are doing even more meaningful work. The old adage that, somehow, healthcare advertising is 10 years behind what’s happening in consumer—that gap is closing. I think our agency and our clients are becoming increasingly savvy about how we are putting that through.”
Closing that gap further will be a challenge, especially in an environment where pharmaceutical marketing is viewed as a cost to be managed, rather than a strategy to be exploited, Deschamps adds.

“We as an industry—and GSW Worldwide in particular—are going to need to respond by putting forth even more liberating kinds of ideas,” he explains. “The added twist is that we are going to have to help our clients execute with the least possible demand on them. I think it bodes well for the kind of organization that we have built. There’s a quarter by quarter sort of vigilance for us to stay relevant and meaningful to our clients.”
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