The Top 75: Giant Creative Strategy

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San Francisco shop Giant Creative Strategy has enjoyed double-digit growth every year since it was founded in 2002. Last year was no exception as revenue increased more than 25% to nearly $8 million from $6.3 million in 2007. 

“It was a fantastic year—one of the best ever,” says principal Steven Gold. “We kept growing while the economy and the rest of world seemed to be financially crumbling around us.”

Giant serves clients across a broad range of therapeutic areas—from oncology to rare diseases to dermatology.
It offers full-service capabilities and also works with multiple strategic partners to deliver other services, such as medical education, PR and digital. Core clients include CV Therapeutics, Neutrogena Corp., Cordis Corp., Otsuka America and ArthroCare Corp.

New wins came in last year from Abraxis Bioscience (global work on Abraxane for breast cancer); BioMarin Pharmaceutical (two rare disease products); and Roxro Pharma (pain product ROX-888 in FDA review). Giant also picked up an AOR assignment from Medivation/Pfizer for Dimebon, a new product currently awaiting approval for treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

Other 2008 highlights included work on two pulmonary arterial hypertension products from Actelion Pharmaceuticals—Tracleer, which topped $1 billion in global sales last year, and Ventavis.

In accordance with revenue, staff also grew by about 25% to 40 people ending 2008. A few joined this year, and the agency is looking to hire senior level talent in creative, account services and project management. Gold has seen plenty of resumes, but finding the right people isn't easy.

“There's a limited talent pool locally,” he says. “A lot of our West Coast competitors are going under or dropping talent. We've picked up the best people. Recently, people on the East Coast are actively coming to find us. It always seems difficult to find people who are perfect for us and willing to move to the Bay Area.”

Gold believes marketers and clients must be innovative and be proactive in meeting the challenges of changing markets. Compliance issues have increasingly impacted clients and the agency over the last year. Mergers and acquisitions are also challenging, and healthcare reform is looming on the horizon.

“It seems there was a major shift last year where everybody got a lot more nervous about regulatory and legal compliance issues,” Gold says. “We're seeing that now in the work. Things that were no problem to say or do two years ago are now a problem. Our clients were smaller when we started. There used to be more risk taking. As they're getting bigger, they're hiring from Big Pharma and adopting the Big Pharma model of compliance, which is typically more stringent.”

Gold expects at least 20% growth again this year. New wins thus far include project work for Amgen and an AOR assignment for Actelion's new formulation of intravenous epoprostenol (for pulmonary arterial hypertension).
The agency continues to aggressively pursue new business through a variety of means, including direct mail, calls, ads, PR and participation in industry events and conferences. A strategic and creative planning process called “Giant Idea Generator” (a.k.a. “Gig”) was formalized last year and is applied quarterly to all existing business. It's also being used this year to generate ideas for prospective clients.

Plans are in the works to expand the agency's footprint beyond the West Coast in the coming year.  

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