FCB HealthCare capped off a year of wins with a big score from GlaxoSmithKline, managed launches for major brands and merged with Draft. That despite taking a hit from a highly anticipated diabetes compound that failed in late-stage development, and losing blockbuster Zocor, whose patent expired.

Co-CEOs Dana Maiman and Tom Domanico have built a diversified portfolio and a top-notch team to service it. A highlight for the 340-person agency was the June merger, after IPG decided to bring its Draft and FCB units together to create a global integrated marketing organization. Draft is an agency renowned for direct marketing. “We’re definitely going to take that same prowess and adapt it to the professional audience,” Maiman says.

The merger also brought the opportunity for a re-branding: As of this month, FCB HealthCare becomes DraftFCB HealthCare. It was preceded by sibling FCB NY, which became known as DraftFCB after the merger. The two work together closely on some accounts.

One of the healthcare agency’s biggest coups came when GSK, already a client, moved six accounts, comprising all of its professional business, from WPP to Interpublic Group. Migraine therapy Imitrex and successor Trexima now reside with DraftFCB HealthCare. A big launch is planned for Trexima.

Maiman says the move by GSK may herald a new wave of consolidation at the holding-company level. “A lot of companies look to GSK as a leader.”

The year didn’t start off so promising, though. Take Pargluva (muraglitazar), the diabetes compound that Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb had to shelve in late 2005 due to cardiovascular safety issues. The first of a new class called PPARs, many analysts had pegged it as a future blockbuster.

“Here you had a brilliant global campaign that’ll never see the light of day,” Maiman says.
Its next opportunity turned out to be pretty large: Merck called and asked the agency to pitch for Januvia, its DPP-4, and Janumet, a combination of Januvia and metformin. “We got a call on a Thursday, and Monday we were there,” says Domanico.

Yet it wasn’t a done deal. “There was a lot of risk involved in switching [agencies] at that point,” says Jeneen Ost, associate marketing manager, Januvia, at Merck. But the client liked what it saw from (pre-merger) FCB HealthCare, including a transition plan for the brand and answers to anticipated questions—all of it presented by a veteran team led by the two CEOs and a senior account leader who had worked on Pargluva and other Merck accounts. After winning Januvia, the agency launched it in a few months’ time, and since its debut in the fall, Januvia is off to a fast start where physicians are making a brand choice.

Their other major challenge came with plenty of warning, but that made it no less scary: the patent expiration of Merck’s 12-year-old cholesterol pill Zocor (simvastatin). During the long run-up to the expiry, Tom and Dana did some soul searching. “We were locked into two major clients, and that’s when we realized we had to expand,” Domanico recalls.

A few years ago, the agency put in place a diversification strategy to grow beyond Merck and GSK, pursuing products in oncology, biotech and orphan drugs. Today the roster is much more balanced, with orphan drugs from Kos and Centocor coming on board in 2006, along with Januvia, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s ipilimumab andBayer/Nuvelo’s alfimeprase. The agency is no longer tied solely to the next big primary care launch.

Domanico and Maiman became co-CEOs about two years ago. (Tom is chairman, Dana president.) Their offices are adjacent to one another in the agency’s Manhattan headquarters.
“We’re on the same page. We talk about everything within the agency. And we think alike in a lot of ways,” says Domanico.

“But we’re different enough to challenge each other, too,” adds Maiman.

“You couldn’t have that seamlessness with the client if there wasn’t that seamlessness between Dana and Tom,” says Linda Richardson, VP marketing, Reliant Pharmaceuticals, a longtime client.

The agency posted what Tom and Dana call “healthy double-digit growth” last year, a testament to their tenacity. In the past 18 months, they have hired senior-level talent including a new chief operating officer and two VP/group management directors.

Others in the running for agency of the year, included GSW Worldwide, which launched a women’s health division, and CDM, which spun off DDB Rx and launched multicultural agency Hue. Both had impressive rosters and creative output.