The Top 75: LyonHeart

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Anne Devereux, chairman and CEO of LyonHeart Communications, is quick with an answer when asked what she credits for her firm's recent successes. “We're damn lucky we started reinventing ourselves two years ago. If we hadn't, we'd have missed so much of what's happened since then in the pharma and marketing marketplaces.”

The reinvention, as she repeatedly calls it, began when the TBWA\World Health Network firm changed its name from Lyons Lavey Nickel Swift in 2007. The company used the same practice on itself that it does on clients: the patented TBWA “disruption” process, in which it interviewed everyone from former clients to current employees to discover what it was doing right and wrong. The in-the-process-of-being-rebranded firm found that clients were most pleased with its service orientation and responsiveness. “Clients used to say ‘go be creative towers,' but in recent years they've started needing agency partners to be increasingly proactive and strategic from a messaging and creative standpoint. So, we shifted the balance of the agency to give our creative people a stronger voice than they had before,” explains Devereux. “That's what's fueled everything that's happened in the last two years. It put us in a very stable position going forward.”

Part of the change included a partnership with pharma-centric digital-marketing shop Kazaam, formed by three execs who previously built Johnson & Johnson's internal healthcare marketing arm. Devereux credits the alliance with helping LyonHeart keep pace with clients who are pushing for better digital programs.

“They know the challenges reps are facing and they know that doctors are increasingly turning to the digital world,” she says. “Digital happens much faster than print, but it still takes a while. And these guys get that.” Among the top priorities for the LyonHeart/Kazaam team: mobile applications for the iPhone and other devices, as well as interactive technologies.

“You can no longer give out pens and other stuff that draws everybody to your booth, so how do you make something engaging?” she continues. “You create a virtual environment that maybe replicates what it's like to do a surgical procedure. You create a game for the booth. You add fun back into the equation.”

LyonHeart's last 12 months haven't been without challenges. Following the departure of Susan Flinn, Devereux assumed day-to-day management of the company, a role that she embraces but admits “is not always easy, especially in this environment of constriction and change and chaos.” The company's headcount is down about 10%, currently sitting around 175.

LyonHeart hasn't lost any clients, but many of them have either cut projects or reduced the scope of the agency's work. Add to this a handful of product delays and Pfizer's Detrol going off-patent, and LyonHeart found itself scuffling a bit. Then there was the change at the pharma companies themselves.

“If you think of who our biggest clients are—well, Pfizer is merging with Wyeth, there's the Roche/Genentech thing, there's the Schering/Merck thing. When they're in that state of flux, they're increasingly nervous and agitated, and projects get slowed down,” says Devereux. None of this is to downplay the agency's many successes over the past year. LyonHeart snared Roche's new entry into the diabetes field, a huge chunk of Ethicon's surgical-tools business and an oncology agent from Otsuka Pharmaceuticals.

Devereux speaks enthusiastically about empowering a younger tier of employees to fill some of the personnel voids. And she believes the next year will be a great one: “We'll emerge from the chaos stronger than we were when we went into it.”
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