The Top 75: Flashpoint Medica

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Eight new account wins propelled Flashpoint Medica (part of Omnicom Diversified Agency Services) to 35% growth last year. Though 2008 wasn't as explosive as 2007 (when the agency doubled in size and increased revenue by 65%), last year's growth was still impressive given the worldwide economic crisis.

“We don't take our success for granted in these times,” says co-president and managing partner Risa Bernstein. “It's important to have balance of organic growth and new wins. We're proud that three of the eight new wins are major new clients.”

Organic growth came from Genentech (medical education work for growth hormone Nutropin); Johnson & Johnson-Cordis (AOR for balloon angioplasty products Durastar/Firestar); and DuPuy (interactive projects for a knee replacement product). New relationships began with Ipsen Pharmaceuticals (AOR for Dysport); Genzyme (AOR for Clolar); and Quest (project work). Thus far this year, Flashpoint has landed an AOR assignment for a pipeline multiple sclerosis treatment from Acorda Pharmaceuticals.

Numerous creative awards rolled in as the agency has racked up five In-Awe nominations this year.

Total headcount stood at 60 ending 2008, and it's since risen to 65. Senior leadership was bolstered last year with the addition of James Karcher, VP, promotional medical education director, and Steve Whitt, SVP creative director on the copy side.

Social media sites, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, have helped Flashpoint connect with and recruit young talent. The agency also recruits at colleges, and co-president and managing partner Charlene Prounis says she's seeing and hiring “even higher caliber” graduates compared to this time last year. Both she and Bernstein agree that lack of opportunity in other sectors has helped attract great young talent.

As expected, the agency's digital practice expanded dramatically last year. Prounis notes that digital is becoming an essential medium in reaching doctors as reps are increasingly denied face-to-face opportunities. Clients must go beyond webcasts and web conferences to get and hold doctors' attention. Flashpoint is helping by developing “interesting and innovative” virtual programs and games.

“Digital can be the start of a very large account for agencies, and that's a large shift,” says Prounis. “We have digital integrated, but many brands have [a specific] digital agency. There's a rise of interactive agencies trying to become full service. Digital is so important it could actually lead.”

Bernstein notes that fewer drugs have made competition fierce as “every size agency is going for every size product.” Flashpoint also feels the impact of mergers and acquisitions, as clients Genentech, Ipsen and Endo (formerly Indevus Pharmaceuticals) were all involved in transactions. Prounis says it takes extra time and effort to ensure stable relationships in those situations.

Bernstein sees increasing emphasis on globalization, and she says that it's not always easy to find talented people who know how to collaborate on a global scale. She thinks people who have developed those skills will be really valuable over the next 10 to 15 years. 

A new office opened in San Francisco early this year to serve existing California clients. It's expected to grow as the business base expands this year. Overall, Prounis is aiming for 20% growth in 2009. 

“It's important to be in some higher specialty areas like oncology and biotech to offset what's going on in mainstream,” adds Bernstein. “Our expertise in those areas has made us poised for continued growth.”
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