The Top 60: Draftfcb Healthcare

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It seems like only yesterday that Draft was Draft and FCB was FCB. But two years into the mega-merger the healthcare powerhouse has doubled revenues, as promised to Interpublic Group brass, and launched a new agency, Area 23. 

The new shop on 23rd Street, 10 blocks south of Draftfcb Healthcare's Herald Square HQ, was established in October 2007 to house the firm's Roche business, including RA drug Actrema and anemia biologic Mircera along with GlaxoSmithKline's Lamictal, among other brands and clients. Area 23 was then merged at the end of the year with another IPG startup, Project X-Ray, established with Pfizer's Zmax, Relpax and women's health. The shop has won its first three new business pitches “straight out of the gate,” says Draftfcb president and co-CEO Dana Maiman, who notes that the agency's “flat” structure, with tight integration of accounts and creative, apes that of its parent. 

“It's one thing to open another agency offering and seed it with some business, but for that to mushroom into well over 60 people and to already be a mid-sized shop in a few short months is extraordinary,” says Maiman. FCB has come a long way in a short time, says executive creative director and co-CEO Tom Domanico, who's celebrating his 25th year at the shop. “Five years ago, we were a traditional professional agency doing sales aids and ads and direct mail. And in the last five years, the growth really exploded. We're out in front of it. We identify where to go, we build it, and then when clients come to us we have these different capabilities in place.” 

It helps to have the right kind of customers, says Maiman. “We're fortunate to have a client base that's very receptive to and critically in need of innovation,” she says. The backing of IPG big wigs in the form of ready investment funding is a big help as well, and the firm is feeling acquisitive. 

In recent months, Draftfcb has launched work for Alpharma's Flector Patch and Bristol-Myers Squibb's breast cancer drug Ixempra, among others. “People wait their whole agency careers to have the launches we've had in the last year,” boasts Maiman. 

So far, 2008 has been a manic year on the new business front, too. “It's just been an RFP frenzy,” says Maiman. The firm won eight of the nine pitches it participated in, including: Merck's CHF drug Rolofylline and obesity candidate taranabant, along with the global professional business on Januvia and Janumet, for which the shop already handled US professional; BMS's HIV treatments Reyataz and Sustiva, along with immunosuppressant Belatacept, for transplants; Boehringer Ingelheim's stroke prevention treatment Aggrenox and hypoactive sexual desire drug flibanserin; GSK's thrombin inhibitor Argatroban, bleeding disorder treatment Promacta, acute coronary syndrome drug Arixtra and vaccines Kinrix and Rotarix; and Alpharma's Flexor Patch. Altogether, the agency has seen more than 20 new accounts over the past year, Maiman says, more than making up for the unexpectedly early loss of exclusivity for Merck's Fosamax, a “cradle to grave” account held by the firm for 14 years, and the failure of Neurocrine's Indiplon sleep aid candidate, for which Draftfcb was tasked with the professional account.

Other key accounts include: Boehringer Ingelheim's Flomax and its co-promote with Pfizer, Spiriva; BMS oncology and virology brands; Centocor's psoriasis drug ustekinumab; GSK vaccines and critical care brands, along with GSK/Reliant's Lovaza; Merck's Cozaar/ Hyzaar; Medimmune's Flumist and Synergis; and Icatabant, an orphan drug marketed by Jerini. In addition, the shop's ProHealth med ed and Connect Tech closed loop marketing divisions had their own wins. 

Draftfcb's staff pride themselves on the diversity of their accounts. “It's rare for an agency to have products that are so primary care-based, like a pain patch for sprains, strains and contusions, juxtaposed by something for metastatic breast cancer,” says Maiman. And the shop has some very loyal clients. Merck, Maiman notes, was its first, back when FCB was Vicom. “They're definitely one of our mainstays,” she says. “It's very rare to unveil your client roster and still have the first client there 30 years on.”   

The firm works hard to make sure staff stick around, too, through internal promotion and networking events like a monthly mingle and an annual awards night. 

Bill Young joined the firm last year as EVP/chief administrative officer to head its recruitment and retention efforts, while Harold Cobran came on as EVP/COO. Other recent senior hires include those of Bill Yorio from Sudler & Hennessey and Chris Morton from LyonHeart as EVP, managing directors. Other top hires included: Khawar Khokhar, who came over from Cline, Davis & Mann to head the firm's managed markets group, Kaleidoscope; Lenny Bishop, who joined the firm from CCG to lead interactive services; and Laura Tannenbaum, who joined from Harrison & Star to lead oncology creative. Altogether, Draftfcb has hired more than a hundred staff over the past year, bringing its total headcount to around 400. 

The agency suffered one high-level defection—that of EVP/managing director Tammy Fisher to GSW, where she was named president of the New York office. 

Maiman says she's proud of the firm's robust growth in an austere time for the pharma industry, but she isn't taking it for granted. “We're not immune to everything that's happening in this industry—the patent expirations, the product delays, the non-approvables—and for us to be not just treading water but constantly growing at significant double digits is amazing. But we have a lot of pipeline products, so obviously the fact is, approvals have been delayed or been partial, and there have been approvable letters. Even the brands we launched this year, some of them went back to the agency two or three times. That means a lot of delays on our hands, and clients don't pay us to sit here waiting for their approval. But that is the industry we're in and you've got to be prepared for that. It's not consumer packaged goods.” 

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