I have a confession to make about this year’s MM&M Awards evening and it has nothing to do with any adverse events at the afterglow party. Rather, I have to admit there were more than a few winning agencies that I didn’t know a whole lot about. In fact, there were a couple of names of which I’d never even heard before.
Malvern, PA-based advertising shop Mangos wowed judges with its work for Siemens, scooping golds for Best Individual Product Ad and Best Product Launch Campaign (both professional advertising categories). And Bellingham, WA-based design agency Toolhouse powered its way to the Best Website award on the back of some strong work for Novartis’ CFvoice.com.
Meanwhile, the Orlando, FL-based Elite agency triumphed in the Best Total Integration for Large Companies category, thanks to an ingenious effort for Siemens, embracing the kind of 2.0 stuff that still terrifies most of the industry.
So, just what is going on? It seems the small, nimble, innovative agencies are duking it out with the big guys—and increasingly knocking them out. That’s not to say that some of the more established agencies aren’t still doing the business (Ogilvy Healthworld scored a hat-trick of gold awards this year, for example) but the balance of creative power is beginning to inch its way down a longer tail of healthcare shops.
This is just one observed shift in what has been another challenging year of change for the industry. And this is just the beginning, of course. 
A few days after our Awards show, another, arguably more important, contest took place. And its winner, President-elect Barack Obama, brings a number of potential threats to the industry’s table: price negotiations, advertising restrictions and reimportation, to name but a few. 
While the impact, if any, of such policies remains to be seen, Matthew Arnold argues in the Outlook 2009 report (pages 40-47), that, at least the new administration might introduce a level of stability from which pharma can rebuild—and that would certainly be welcome right now.
MM&M hasn’t stood still 2008, either. In July, we published the biggest print issue in our 42-year history (The Agency Issue), while we continued to develop our online offerings, including our daily news stories, twice-weekly e-newsletter News Brief and regular webcast events. Last month, in fact, we added a new weekly newsletter, Consumer Brief, which, as its name suggests, focuses on all aspects of consumer healthcare marketing. Meanwhile, the New Drug Dossier is celebrating its one-year anniversary, during which time we have combined clinical information and exclusive marketing insights for more than 70 new drugs.
The wrap-up
Before I sign off on 2008, I’d like to draw your attention to this month’s Back Talk column, “Notes from rehab.” In October, regular contributor and MM&M editor at large, Warren Ross, suffered a stroke. Largely unperturbed by the inconvenience of having to re-learn such elementary tasks as walking and typing, the healthcare agency legend, Hall of Famer and former Mayor of Rye, NY, delivered this month’s column around a week ahead of deadline.
Warren epitomizes the kind dedication, determination and fight that has gotten this industry through some difficult times in the past, and will again in the weeks and months to come. Have a happy holiday.