The Top 75: Palio

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Palio president Mike Myers says 2008 was the best year in the agency's history on multiple fronts, though he also calls it “a dynamic year of highs and lows.” Revenue was up, but Myers declines to offer specifics.

“We picked up new clients and helped celebrate a lot of successes with existing clients,” he says. “We did a lot of creative work, and more DTC than ever. We have great consumer experience and expertise. We've been able to show what we've been capable of all along, and it resulted in new wins.”

Twelve clients awarded Palio assignments last year. A big DTC award came from Beechnut (consumer baby food products). Other new clients include UCB/Upstate Pharma; URL Pharma; Solvay Pharmaceuticals; and Roche Diagnostics. Stiefel, a new addition in 2008, has grown organically by quite a bit this year. Additional wins include Cephalon (corporate sales training); Kigali Medical University; and Novartis (managed markets).
Palio had global work increased on accounts such as Shire's Fosrenol and Eli Lilly/Amylin's Byetta. Media Lab, the agency's onsite production facility, was beefed up and focus was put on emerging technology. Myers says the brand strategy group “got a turbo charge” with the addition of research and analytics offerings.

“We now have best-in-class strategists that can do the research, find the insights and provide a great foundation to help inform strategy and creative thinking for clients as they're seeking to wade through strategic issues,” he explains.

In contrast to account and capability increases, headcount dropped to 111 in 2008 (from 125 in 2007) and it's down to 106 this year. 

“The first six or seven months of 2008 we were on pace to blow the doors off, then the wheels fell off the economy,” he says. “Clients started cutting the scope of work and stopped making decisions. We didn't lose clients but activity ceased for a period. We had to make some changes.”

Almost all clients need to do more with less, and Myers doesn't think that's necessarily a bad thing.
“Personally, I believe we're seeing a needed correction,” he says. “There was more excess in promotion in the past where now clients are seeking efficiency. We want to do what's right—to figure out what's best. It's like working with a scalpel versus an ax.”

Myers thinks decisions from the Obama administration will have the biggest impact this year. He sees managed care gaining importance and uncertainty around regulations for technologies, such as social media. Regarding this, Myers says pharmas “need to continue to experiment in a judicious way.”

Palio will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. Myers is looking at building an offering to help clients navigate REMS programs. He wants to expand managed care, DTC and interactive capabilities.

Three new clients (Biogen-Idec, MedAllies, Lantheus) signed on this year. Myers says pitches are getting more competitive. He's noticed large agencies are pitching business they might not have pitched previously. “I say bring it,” Myers adds of the competition. “I want to fight the best out there. An agency's quality has nothing to do with size. I love going against some of the well-known ‘highest-performing agencies.'”
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