The Top 75: CDMiConnect

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While the economic turmoil is giving many medical agencies a white-knuckle ride, at least one shop is keeping its cool. CDMiConnect has seen the bubble burst before. The agency launched in 2000 as the digital arm of Cline, Davis & Mann, just ahead of the dotcom bust.

“It was an interesting time,” says managing partner, director of client services Deb Deaver. “There were so many digital agencies. So many were crashing and burning. Many core agencies weren't doing digital.”

The digital shops of the day didn't get brand strategy, and the traditional medical agencies didn't know squat about emerging online tools. CDMi established its niche and held on for dear life, transitioning to a relationship marketing model and coming into its own as things calmed down and digital marketing became an accepted part of the mix.

Nowadays, as its parent agency borrows its staff to serve as “digital mentors” and the mainstreaming of digital marketing is completed, the 120-person firm is pitching itself as a relationship marketing shop with unique digital depth. The agency has adopted the motto: “Building healthy relationships.”

“I think our roots of being a digital agency are incredibly powerful these days,” says Deaver. “And a lot of our business is still in digital/interactive, but no matter how hot that is, we still believe in strong channel-agnostic strategies so we can take advantage of new channels as they emerge.”

CDMi prides itself on its analytics department and its relationship mapping process, aimed at picking apart the strengths and weaknesses of brands from the doctor's office to dispensation and identifying the best channels with which to address sore points.

“These days, you can't throw your money everywhere, hoping something pays out,” says Deaver. “You have to pick a couple points where you're seeing drop-off, whether it's after the first script, and they're not making it to the pharmacy, or whether you're not driving anyone into the doctor.”

The agency also plays up its experience in “multivendor leadership.”

“Not that we're driving the whole bus, but we're usually accountable for making sure that everything gets where it needs to and is accounted for so that we can track the ROI,” says Deaver.

About 70% of CDMi's work is consumer- or patient-directed, the rest being aimed at healthcare professionals. The mix of online versus offline varies, but on average it's about 50-50, says Deaver.

Revenues grew over the past year, though Deaver expects this year to be flat, with pitches few and far between. New assignments over the past year include Pfizer's Geodon and oncology pipeline products, for digital, and relationship marketing assignments on Novartis' Stalevo and Focalin XR. On the downside, the agency lost its digital assignment for Pfizer's mature brands portfolio as the company consolidated the business into Agency 23.
For Pfizer, CDMi also handles Viagra and the company's oncology professional portal. Other top clients include Genentech, for Lucentis and Rituxan (both rheumatoid arthritis and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma indications), and Eisai/Pricara for AcipHex.

In addition to the choppy economy, challenges include addressing patients' information overload and the tension between clients' risk-averseness and desire to utilize new technologies.

“There's a pragmatic path we're going to have to navigate,” says Deaver. “Clients say they want innovation, but at the same time, they want things they know are going to work that aren't going to get them in legal trouble.”
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