The Top 75: Williams-Labadie

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Like everyone else in the industry Williams-Labadie has been a victim of the current economic conditions. The Chicago-based shop hasn't really lost any clients, but rather some of them have stopped spending as much as they used to.

According to Peter Labadie, managing director, that trend has continued all through the winter but the good news is that it's beginning to show signs of bouncing back. “People seem to feel the worse may be over by now,” says Labadie.

Although it's been a slow year, Williams-Labadie has won some new business.

“We have been awarded some significant new projects from Astellas, which has been great.” The agency also recently won a pitch from American Medical Association (AMA) where it will be launching new services for the group.

On the personnel front there has been only one significant personnel change, the departure of Williams-Labadie president, Tony Goosmann. That position, says Labadie, hasn't been filled.

Labadie says that one of the major challenges currently facing the industry is the movement against DTC by forces that are not fond of it. “I think that's a challenge because we've done a lot of DTC for clients and I think the continued interest in doing it depends on openness in Washington, and right now there seems to be a lot of anxiety about that.” Labadie added that the environment around new drug approvals is as challenging as it's ever been.

“We've had a number of biotech clients really depend on the FDA for new product approvals and recently the FDA has been very, very strict about that,” he says. “So, it's been a much more challenging environment, longer times to get approved and a lower likelihood of approval for a lot of companies.”

Williams-Labadie continues to branch out into new areas, including the medical device industry. The company picked up some new business from Hollister within the last year. Another recent trend has been a spike in the OTC sector. “We've had a pickup recently in the last year or so in terms of a refocus again around OTC,” says Labadie. “It just seems products like that are very consumer advertising-dependent and the companies really feel that they have to get out in front of the consumer to see their products purchased, so they are going to continue to spend.” 

Labadie comments that he doesn't think there are less new business opportunities out there, rather that the scope of work has been reduced accordingly, due to reduced consumer spending, increased regulatory activity and a general business climate that is more conservative and restrained than it has been.

Labadie says that among his agency's strengths is the digital area. “We've been ahead of the curve for the last five or six years in terms of developing digital skill level and interactive skills and e-marketing skills that I think are very strong in the industry.”

Going forward Labadie contends that the environment is one of cautious optimism. “Dollars are precious these days and people don't spend them quite nearly the way they used to,” he explains, “and I think that behooves us to do the best possible job of planning and execution.”
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