The Top 75: The Hal Lewis Group

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David Winigrad, president of The Hal Lewis Group (HLG) declines to report revenue numbers, though he says 2008 was “basically flat.” He's pretty happy with that considering the economic environment.

“We're working to adapt to the changing pharma landscape and to take advantage of what we perceive to be new opportunities,” says Winigrad.

Both Winigrad and HLG senior director of business development Maureen Mangiavas are very excited about last June's launch of Red Car Pharma Solutions, a separate entity from HLG that helps mature brands overcome customer engagement challenges with promotable new data. Winigrad says unique survey technology provides clients unbranded data that “helps contextual brands in a favorable way” and develop “highly relevant discussions with the customer that create a bridge to the brand.” Red Car is staffed by a combination of in-house employees and external consultants. Mangiavas notes that Red Car has helped generate inroads to “a lot” of new clients, including Celgene and Organogenesis, which last year named HLG AOR for wound care product Apligraf.

Additional 2008 wins include Azur Pharma (relaunch of Elestrin and Gesticare) and project work from Covidien on its diagnostic imaging agent Sestamibi. HLG also launched CSL Behring's RiaStap (fibrinogen replacement therapy) and landed professional work on a new pipeline product for pain management from Meda Pharmaceuticals. This year, the agency has won four brands from GE Healthcare (Visipaque, Hexvix, DaTSCAN and AdreView).

“Clients are undergoing enormous pressure and change within their industry, and being flexible to change with them and their changing circumstances is key,” says Winigrad.

“We've always been proactive and given clients solutions before they present us with a challenge or problem,” explains Mangiavas. “Everybody is trying to do more with less. All of us need to help our clients be successful. Red Car is 100% pure innovation. It's combining our expertise to invent something that's a new solution to a persistent problem.”

Winigrad welcomes the continuing trend into digital and video. He notes that HLG has shown a consistent percentage increase in digital, which now accounts for about 40% of the agency's work.

Headcount held steady at 55 with no layoffs. Key personnel changes included the retirement of COO Jim Boland, who wasn't replaced.  Helen Boak was promoted to executive creative director. HLG is hiring, and Winigrad is looking for  “multidisciplinary” talent with equal proficiency online and off. Mangiavas stresses the importance of hiring the right people.

The strategy for the rest of 2009 includes what Winigrad calls a “push toward entering into more partnership agreements” and exploring “various joint ventures with other types of entities and service providers that will expand our core capabilities and create new service offerings.” He declines to give an example. Mangiavas says Red Car will continue to be a big focus this year and a new marketing initiative for it will launch.

“The industry is undergoing major change—the ad industry as well as how pharma products are sold,” says Mangiavas. “It's still evolving. We're all crossing our fingers that it's going to stabilize soon so we can get on with the important and good work we do.”
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