Slight increase in revenue to an estimated $106 million
“A lot of the foundations we laid in science and learning are going to start developing into concrete, tactical products”
“We have issues with our insurance policies and healthcare access. The down-the-road effect on care and delivery of care and outcomes — I’m worried about that”
In early 2016, Sudler & Hennessey announced plans to restructure its business into two entities: one housing its promotional efforts, including Sudler New York and Sentrix Healthcare Communications, and the other its science and learning capabilities — medical education, sales training, speakers bureaus, and medical affairs. Was this a sign of the times for the pharma-marketing industry, or a sign of a rough year for the firm? As it turns out, it was a little bit of both.
“We had a rocky 2015,” acknowledges Rob Rogers, co-CEO of the Americas for Sudler & Hennessey. However, in 2016, “A lot of things were in the right place. It was a year of working hard and getting our heads down.”
In the wake of the restructuring, the firm reported both top and bottom-line growth last year, according to Louisa Holland, co-CEO of the Americas for Sudler. Revenue increased to an estimated $106 million in 2016, up slightly from $105 million in 2015. Staff size remained flat at 900.
Holland attributes some of that performance to the new science and learning focus. Drugmakers, she notes, are putting more of their marketing dollars behind medical affairs and evolving their relationships with physicians and other influential healthcare professionals. This has created a need for a new communications approach, one that is often rooted in data and analytics.
“The physician customer is looking for a different relationship with the manufacturer,” Holland explains. “As the world of data gets bigger, the analysis of data is becoming more front and center.”
Clients are also increasingly looking to the consumer-marketing model, which moves fast and relies heavily on technology.
Other structural changes are under way on the agency side. As part of a WPP reorganization in late 2016, Sudler & Hennessey is now housed under the WPP Health & Wellness umbrella with ghg, CMI/Compas, and Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, a move that Rogers describes as an “incredible prospect” for cross-agency creative, strategic, and data-based work. In addition, Sudler placed some additional focus on its growing Mexico business, bringing on general manager Katya Rueda to lead Sudler Mexico and promoting Luigi Cardone, who previously ran that business, to SVP and director of the Latin America region.
Even as the firm sharpens its focus on different areas of growth, Sudler has been challenged by the same issues affecting healthcare agencies across the board: Drugs are not getting approved as quickly as expected, companies talk big about technology but don’t necessarily use it to its fullest potential, and accounts keep getting put up for grabs in the wake of pharma consolidation.
“Larger companies are not done consolidating,” Rogers says. “It’s a continuing trend. It will bubble up in one place and then go quiet.”