For Pacific Communications president Craig Sullivan, 2018 provided ample cause for celebration. Not only did the agency mark its 25th year in business, but Sullivan believes he delivered on his pledge to right the ship after a tumultuous end to 2017.
That year saw revenue tumble 12%, to $53.4 million, and head count drop from 244 to 227. Part of the declines were traceable to the loss of Allergan’s Glaucoma Drops and Restasis Professional business. At the same time, it came with a kind of grim upside, given that Pacific is owned by Allergan and has long chafed at suggestions that it is an in-house agency hand-fed by its parent. Last year at this time, Sullivan described the ordeal as “a proof point that Allergan can and should use any agency it feels is the best for the business.”
Fast-forward to 2018, which saw revenue remain at that same $53.4 million. While Pacific shares that staff size was 215 at the end of 2018, it has since increased to 240 full-timers.
“We stabilized and started to grow a little bit,” Sullivan says. He adds that much of this stability came by focusing on relationships with brands owned by its corporate parent. “We have been taking care of those long-term relationships.”
That includes longstanding engagements with Allergan on its eye-care products and blockbuster brand Botox. In the last year, it also included three Allergan wins in competitive pitches: for regenerative medicine brands Strattice and Alloderm and fat-freezing product Coolsculpting. Pacific also doubled down on its social media efforts, creating social influencer campaigns to build excitement around Allergan’s aesthetics and augmentation brands.
But 2018 wasn’t all about growth strategies and revenue figures, Sullivan stresses. It was also characterized by an intensified focus on fostering a strong corporate culture and growing professional development opportunities within the agency.
“As a group that’s been around for 25 years, it would be easy for us to rest on our laurels,” he says, noting that Pacific chose a different — and more time-intensive — path. “We’re rolling out a variety of initiatives that are meant to enhance the culture.”
Clearly Sullivan thinks they’re working, referencing a “less than a 10% attrition rate, which is pretty good from an agency perspective. We don’t have a lot of churn within our organization.”
In the second half of 2019 and beyond, Pacific will again seek to broaden its client horizons beyond Allergan, which at press time had just announced a $60 billion merger with AbbVie. “We just recently started to do some new business activity not focused on Allergan,” Sullivan notes. He adds that he’s excited for the future but has hesitated to make any announcements because “none of the clients have landed yet.”
As for that 25th birthday, Sullivan took great pride in it because, in his mind, it represents “longevity, stability and success,” especially in contrast with here-one-day, gone-the-next competitors on the West Coast.
“You see West Coast agencies come and go, or open up satellites and shut those satellites,” he says. “Twenty-five years is something that is really special for us.” —