Revenue grew by 11% to an MM&M-estimated $165 million in 2016
“Our singular focus is growth: growth of our clients’ brands, our people, and our offerings”
“The industry will continue to draw on innovation out-side of pharma and healthcare” — Dana Maiman
Here’s the thing about FCB Health president and CEO Dana Maiman: She tends to tell the truth, even when the truth is painful. But the same glass-half-full philosophy might be her secret to running one of the largest healthcare agencies in the U.S.
It takes Maiman less than 10 minutes into a call to spill the beans: FCB Health had been working with Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo for years, supporting the blockbuster immuno-oncology therapy in its pre-launch days and through the approvals of 14 indications on the HCP side of the account. The drug, in a closely watched race with Merck’s Keytruda, brought in $3.7 billion in sales alone in 2016. Then BMS made a decision to consolidate the Opdivo business — and there went the account.
So what did FCB Health do by way of response? To hear Maiman tell it, the agency went out and won the Imbruvica business and now handles HCP, CRM, and digital for the AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson blockbuster lymphoma therapy. “And we did it without losing one person,” Maiman points out.
That, in a nutshell, is the kind of year FCB Health had in 2016. It won some business, lost some business, gained new employees, bid farewell to a few others, and then went ahead and hired some of them back.
Approximately 15% of the agency’s hires in 2016 had previously worked for the firm. (“We refer to it as a sabbatical,” Maiman quips.) She later notes that the agency paid more than $600,000 in employee referral fees across the broader FCB Health network. Similarly, at least two of the brands FCB Health started working with in 2016 were returning brands, albeit with different ownership.
“It was the year of the boomerang,” Maiman says. “It was all about change.” We can assume that Maiman means positive change — rather than the other kind. FCB Health reports an 11% increase in revenue in 2016, to an MM&M-estimated $165 million from $149 million in 2015. The firm also employs some 535 people in its New York office and — at last count — 1,463 across the entirety of the FCB Health network.
Still, the company has stared down its share of challenges. In 2016, it stopped working on two experimental drugs being developed by Gilead Sciences — a bone-marrow drug, momelotinib, and a heart drug, eleclazine — both of which failed in late-stage clinical trials.
But FCB Health also claimed 18 new accounts, including Adomzo, a skin-cancer drug once owned by Novartis and now marketed by Sun Pharma. FCB had supported the launch of the cancer therapy at the end of 2015 before losing the business when Novartis sold the drug. The same thing happened for Xiaflex, a treatment for Dupuytren’s contracture once owned by Auxilium therapy and now marketed by Endo: FCB Health won that business in a competitive pitch in 2016.
The agency also picked up work from Anacor, now owned by Pfizer, for HCP and digital work on eczema drug Eucrisa. Other longstanding clients include Boehringer Ingelheim, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries; mainstay brands on the roster include toenail-fungus medication Kerydin and IBS drug Linzess.
The frequency of pharma divestitures and asset swaps is only intensifying as drugmakers continue on the consolidation path, according to Maiman. “In some ways, it’s really exciting for us because of the additional opportunities,” she says.
That’s not the only big issue FCB Health faced during the past year. The talent question still looms ominously, both in terms of how best to retain top talent and how to convince newcomers to enlist. For the latter task, FCB Health has aggressively promoted its focus on diversity and gender bias, a growing concern across the advertising industry as a whole. The broader FCB network, including FCB Health, has spearheaded several programs to address such concerns, including implicit-bias training, and has even examined its media spending on photography.
“The staff needs to mirror the population and the customer from the top down,” Maiman points out. With new business wins comes the need for executive talent. The agency made a number of senior-level hires over the past year, bringing in Kim Barke as group creative director for oncology accounts (notably the shiny new Imbruvica business). Barke most recently served as creative director of copy for Unified Oncology, a spinoff of Omnicom Group’s Biolumina.
FCB also brought back Tammy Fischer as EVP and MD of specialized agencies. Fischer, who worked for the company from 2004 to 2008, joined from McCann Health North America, where she served as chief growth officer. She is a former president of GSW Worldwide in New York, where she worked with Rich Levy, FCB Health’s chief creative officer. Holly Henry, FCB Health’s chief medical officer, left earlier this year for a new role at Klick Health.
Fischer has been tasked with managing the firm’s specialized agencies — ProHealth, Trio, Hudson, Mosaic, FCBVIO, and TBD – The Branding & Design Group, among others — which are now housed under a single umbrella. The TBD business, for example, has surged recently on the heels of therapeutic naming and logo development assignments, according to Levy.
“We’re breaking out a branding department into a separate company because it’s grown so large,” he notes. Michael Guarino, FCB Health’s chief strategy officer, is quick to point out the way FCB nurtures innovation differs from its peers.
“We always have to be in beta mode,” he explains. “There isn’t a separate innovation department. We always have products in development. We’re ready to go.” Levy agrees, adding, “Virtually everything we’re doing is in innovation and digital. It’s not uncommon to see drones flying down the hall.”
The 2 Sides of Living With COPD, a 2016 campaign for Boehringer Ingelheim, used interactive tools to tell two sides of a patient story, contrasting the security of health with the fear and pain of illness. The campaign is similar to a Honda and Wieden + Kennedy London campaign that also relied on interactive video to tell its story.
FCB Health continues to search out answers and solutions for the thorniest problems large agencies encounter as a cost for doing business. Credit FCB Health for acknowledging what other agencies would only admit under subpoena: there’s much to learn from companies and brands outside the healthcare universe. “We look there, really, for inspiration. It’s working exquisitely well,” Maiman says.