The Top 75: LLNS

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At this time last year, the agency currently known as LLNS was presently known as LyonHeart. This wouldn't have been noteworthy, but for one stubborn problem: Many within the industry were still referring to LyonHeart by its former name. It was, for all intents and purposes, The Agency Formerly Known As LLNS.
In 2007, LLNS—née Lyons Lavey Nickel Swift—was folded into the TBWA\WorldHealth network; with this new corporate reassignment came the new LyonHeart moniker. Alas, it didn't take. The old name boasted years of heritage, which couldn't be vanished simply by changing the letterhead.
So, a little more than three years after LLNS had become LyonHeart, the agency reversed course and reclaimed its old name. To hear people in and around the agency tell it, the change couldn't have come soon enough. “LyonHeart wasn't sticking,” admits Janet Donnelly, promoted this year to president of LLNS.
When LyonHeart was quietly un-folded from TBWA\WorldHealth in 2010, the agency took a look at itself and its positioning, conducting what Donnelly calls a “recognition study.” What it found was that the LLNS brand still enjoyed more than its share of market cachet. Sensing that the LyonHeart name and brand was “stalling,” Donnelly and the firm's recently reshuffled management team moved quickly to reinstall the LLNS name.
Donnelly stresses that she wasn't at the firm when the shift to LyonHeart was made, but she thinks the name change created confusion and that perhaps it wasn't communicated as well as it might've been. “Honestly, maybe it was just the comfort factor,” she shrugs.
The return of the LLNS brand ranked as one of many big shifts over the past year. The agency reshuffled its executive ranks, adding former DAS Healthcare EVP Sharon Callahan as CEO and Peter Zagorin as EVP, director of client services. Brendan Ward was promoted to head the firm's creative operations as SVP, group creative director.
The name change/management change double shot energized LLNS. Donnelly touts Callahan's “great eye for new business” and “wonderful collaborative sense” as well as Zagorin's “chemistry with clients.” But she reserves special mention for Ward and what his elevation means for the LLNS creative product. “He has such high standards. He will not rest until something is right,” she says. “He's a leader and a mentor.”
In terms of new business, the newly rechristened LLNS enjoyed a strong year. It added Pfizer's Crizotinib (billed as a breakthrough treatment for lung cancer) and added work from existing Johnson & Johnson clients Cordis (Empira, a catheter, and Exoseal, a vascular closure device) and Ethicon Endo-Surgery. Not surprisingly, Donnelly celebrates the firm's gains in the device sector. “It used to be that nobody wanted to work on devices,” she says. “But we've embraced that business and learned how to manage it. It's very, very different from pharmaceutical business.”
As for lost clients, there was only one: Pfizer's Toviaz, for overactive bladder. Donnelly admits to being “very sad” about the loss, but believes that new management on the client side was looking to shake things up.
Expect LLNS to continue to beef up its device business in the year ahead, as well as further refine its digital offerings.
“That was and is a big challenge for us—not just internally, but also in getting clients on board,” Donnelly says. “Frankly, if we're talking again next year, I hope the word ‘digital' doesn't come out of my mouth as much as it did this time.”
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