The Top 60: Brand Pharm

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Many healthcare-focused agencies do back flips to portray themselves as “one-stop shops,” even if their offerings in certain areas—the digital space, usually—are nowhere near as evolved as those of their competitors. The Publicis-owned Brand Pharm, however, ranks among the handful that rejects this positioning.

That's not to say that Brand Pharm hasn't evolved its capabilities to accommodate client demands, or restructured in a way to better manage its business. In the last year the agency divvied up creative responsibilities between executive creative director, art, David Grillo and executive creative director, copy, Noel Castro. But Brand Pharm is quick to acknowledge its eagerness to work alongside its sister companies.

“We utilize as many Publicis partnerships as we can,” says Brand Pharm managing director Kathy Magnuson. “It would be foolish not to take advantage of all these amazing resources we have at our disposal. We're not so proud to think we can do it all ourselves.”

One such arrangement led to Brand Pharm's biggest win during the last year: the global AOR assignment for ConvaTec, encompassing corporate work as well as responsibility for the ostomy, skin-care and wound-care product lines. To nab the account, Brand Pharm teamed with Medicus London. Medicus serves as global agency for the wound business, while Brand Pharm handles the ostomy and skin-care lines; other Publicis firms contribute in other markets.

While Magnuson acknowledges that coordinating these partnerships proved challenging in the past, she says that technology has made them far more workable. It doesn't hurt that clients have warmed to them, either.

“What you're seeing is that they want the best people and service. They don't care where it comes from,” she explains. Other jointly handled accounts during the last year include the “Beat Your Risk” Super Bowl campaign for King Pharmaceuticals and the American Heart Association (Brand Pharm and consumer shop Glow Worm) and digital work for Solstice Neurosciences (Brand Pharm and iMed).
Overall, Brand Pharm won four out of six new-business pitches over the last 12 months. The company added work from Galderma Laboratories on the Differin, MetroGel and Tri-Luma brands. Teva Pharmaceuticals tapped Brand Pharm for its Tev-Tropin growth hormone, plus Solstice brought the firm on board for work on Myobloc.

On the flip side, one of the two pitches in which Brand Pharm didn't succeed was the Remicade agency consolidation—a tough pill to swallow, given that Brand Pharm had worked on the product since its launch. The firm also took a hit when the courts ruled that patent protection for King's Altace had expired. Not surprisingly, its promo budget was quickly slashed. 

Despite the two losses, Brand Pharm has held up well in recent months. Magnuson says that the company remains “about even” with where it was at this time last year, with overall headcount still around 75. 

The agency will continue to push forward on behalf of another brand: its own. “I think we're still a relatively new name to people, so it's been a little bit of a challenge to get people to know us,” Magnuson says. “Hopefully the work we're doing for our clients is speaking as loud as anything else we'll do.”
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