For Havas Life Metro, 2018 was all about diversifying its client base. The agency, one of the flagship properties within the Havas Health & You network, largely accomplished that goal, as witnessed by its 11 successful pitches and nine new assignments.
“The theme from last year was definitely ‘winning,’” says HLM co-president Michael McNamara. The trend extended to his agency’s parent organization, which “had its second biggest year ever,” he reports.
The pivot wasn’t an easy one. In the past, HLM was known for its oncology expertise. But while oncology clients remain coveted by healthcare agencies, there’s a danger in relying too heavily on any single category, no matter how broad that category may be. That’s why HLM’s successes in other segments, including animal health, felt so gratifying to its execs.
“As far as those wins go, we worked very hard to diversify our therapeutic areas,” acknowledges HLM co-president Jennifer Shirley.
HLM downsized in terms of overall staff during 2018, moving from 200 full-time employees at the end of 2017 to 140. However, according to McNamara the numbers don’t tell the full story. “We didn’t lay any people off. They just moved within the Havas network,” he says. MM&M estimates that revenue declined from $40 million in 2017 to $32 million in 2018.
New clients included Mylan, Cerevance and Theravance Biopharma. It was an active year on the launch front as well, as HLM partnered with Havas San Francisco on the debut of BioMarin’s Palynziq, a novel enzyme therapy for a rare genetic disease known as phenylketonuria.
The challenging pace was eased somewhat by HLM’s ability to take advantage of what Shirley calls “fluidity across the offices” under the HH&Y umbrella. McNamara agrees, adding, “One of the big benefits of Havas is that, in Donna Murphy, we have one CEO we all work for.
The leadership team at Havas Life Metro is still relatively new — Shirley came on board as president in the summer of 2017, while McNamara joined her as co-president in January 2018. By all accounts, they’ve settled into a groove, redefining what HLM brings to the table and determining when to tap into the expertise of the other villages in the Havas network.
Indeed, in an era of personalized medicine and increasingly diverse therapeutics, it’s helpful to be able to lean on Havas’ medical group to ensure that all marketing work maintains a high fidelity to complex science. “Part of what we do well is our medical expertise,” Shirley says. “The medical group at Havas isn’t just a satellite group. They’re part of the core team.”
Finally, HLM revised its internal processes by implementing the Agile model, a style of rapid prototyping and fast-paced production of deliverables that was borrowed from the world of software development. “Advertising is well known for taking too long to get things done and being expensive,” McNamara says. “So we’re working with our clients to get to a minimum viable product in 90 days, for example. We’re co-creating with them.”