The Top 60: Torre Lazur McCann

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Torre Lazur McCann still bills itself as the “launch agency,” but the New York-based agency wants you to know that it's much more.

“A launch is not a point in time, it's more of a state of mind,” says managing director Bill McEllen, explaining the agency's new slogan: “Launch intensity.”

“All the resources are there, all the best people are there and that should be a part of every brand through the life of the brand,” says McEllen, adding that: “It's probably easier to launch a brand than to keep the momentum going 10 years after launch, and that's what we want to do with all of our brands. It's very much a cradle to grave mentality.” McEllen points to GlaxoSmithKline's Paxil, which the firm handled through its 15 years of life, from the product's prelaunch to loss of patent exclusivity, with two reformulations and multiple new indications.

Torre Lazur McCann came up with the repositioning following intensive internal “insight mining” last year. It's not hard to see why, with approvals trickling out of the FDA at the slowest pace in memory and no letup in sight. “It's getting harder and harder to get new compounds to market, and we do a lot more here than just launch brands,” says McEllen. The shop is nonetheless preparing to launch six new chemical entities over the next year. Torre Lazur McCann's last launch was that of GlaxoSmithKline's Veramyst, more than a year ago.

GSK has been good to Torre Lazur, which picked up Avodart and Advair in its 2006 agency consolidation. Last year, GSK tasked Torre Lazur with its oncology franchise, including Tykerb and Hycamptin, along with a couple premarket brands.

Other recent account wins include Novartis' flu vaccines franchise—domestic and global, seasonal and pandemic—and UCB Pharma's Vimpat, shared with McCann's global network outside of the US.
On the downside, the firm lost Ethicon Endo-Surgery's Harmonic device franchise in a consolidation.  
Torre Lazur boasts two of the top three global brands —Advair and Bristol-Myers Squibb/Sanofi-Aventis' Plavix—among its roster, along with a number of specialty and primary care brands including: Eisai/ PriCara's AcipHex and Eisai/Pfizer's Fragmin; GSK's Avodart, along with its oncology franchise and Requip for Parkinson's and restless legs syndrome; and Adams Respiratory Therapeutics' Mucinex franchise.

Over the past year and a half, Torre Lazur has taken on about 20 additional staff for a 20% boost. Under CEO Marci Piasecki, senior staff has been stable for the past year, and McEllen boasts that most have been with the agency for more than 10 years (McEllen has been there five years, having come over from the client side at Reliant). The shop has also welcomed around 40 “boomerangs”—staff who left Torre Lazur for other agencies, only to return—back into the fold in recent years. “That's a testament to the culture of the organization and the reason why I came here,” says McEllen, who doesn't sound like an agency exec worried about where his next meal is going to come from.

“For me, the biggest challenge is managing our growth going forward while doing great work for our existing clients and continuing to grow through a sane, rational approach dictated by what's in front of us and not who we've got in the wings.”
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