The Top 75: Cambridge BioMarketing

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After passing the $10 million fee milestone in 2008, Cambridge BioMarketing's Steve West didn't spend much time contemplating what he'd do for an encore. Analysis of the firm's 2008 books revealed that about one-third of its revenue had stemmed from digital programs and products. Acknowledging the obvious, West and co. set about attempting to grow the company's digital faculties.

That effort reached its logical conclusion in December, when Cambridge acquired digital marketing and media firm RDVO. “Not unlike many other agencies, we were outsourcing most of the digital stuff,” recalls West, the firm's CEO and chief creative officer. “But they were one of our key outsource partners, so we'd had a chance to swim with one another for a few years, so to speak.” The addition of RDVO, which had done  work for companies like Genzyme but also projects for Microsoft and the Boston Red Sox, brought a broad range of digital skills under Cambridge's roof.

The first months of 2010, then, were about the integration of RDVO and its 10 staffers. Rather than segregating the acquirees in a corner, Cambridge chose to mix them in right away: RDVO's digital strategy people and web developers were blended with Cambridge's account staff and design studio, respectively.

“They're like us. They're work-focused, as opposed to worrying about titles and, I don't know, corporate strange stuff,” West cracks. The firm's headcount as of mid-May was 62, up from 50 at the same time in 2009. “Next time I talk to you, we'll be a lot bigger,” he promises.

Right now, 40% of the firm's revenue comes from digital, and West thinks that figure will pass 50% before too long. “More and more often, digital ends up being the right channel,” he says. Beyond the digital crusade, Cambridge enjoyed a fine year, adding a handful of assignments while managing to retain its existing ones. Given the type of companies with which it works—manufacturers of specialty products like Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Genzyme, Biogen Idec and Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Co.—Cambridge wasn't gored by the Big Pharma mergers that resulted in many an agency being freed from the burden of its responsibilities.

West points to Cambridge's multi-year relationship with its biggest client, Alexion, as particularly gratifying. The last 18 months saw Cambridge manage the successful rollout of hemolysis treatment Soliris in Europe and Latin America, with Japan next on the agenda. The firm also is working on two new indications for the drug, including one for atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.

New assignments included work on Genzyme's Seprafilm (for post-surgical adhesions) and alemtuzumab (a new MS drug), plus AOR designation for Biogen Idec's hemophilia products. Bolstered by three in-the-works launches, Cambridge should hit $12 million in fees in 2010, West says, and come in somewhere in the $15-$18 million range in 2011.
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