There’s nothing like an economic disaster to catalyze change, and as pharma manufacturers continue to consolidate resources and mull over timeworn business models, they will still need to successfully sell their products. According to leadership at Draftfcb Healthcare, the key to accommodating an industry shift is to anticipate it. 

“I don’t want to sound like Miss Pollyanna, like everything is great and we’re hiring like mad and we’re winning all this new business,” says Dana Maiman, president and CEO. “But things have been very good, and not because our clients are spending like drunken sailors. We realized a few years ago that the business was changing…we realized that we needed to create a huge digital offering, and that managed markets were going to be driving so much of what we do.” With double-digit growth and 20 new wins, a smattering of product launches and over a hundred new employees—including 16 new SVPs, Draftfcb has created change it can believe in.

In terms of new clients, Draftfcb won over six products with Bausch & Lomb, and is currently gearing up for the launch of an ophthalmic product from that win. June 1 marked the launch of Nuvigil, a sleep disorder treatment for new client Cephalon. Rounding out the list of new client wins, Novogyne, a Novartis and Novogen joint venture, tapped Draftfcb for its hormone therapy Vivelle dot.

Of the Nuvigil launch, Harold Corbran, chief innovation officer, says the campaign was “a great example of integrated aspects—a big part of the launch was digital based.” Continues Corbran: “We worked on and launched the branded and unbranded sites, and prepared all of the materials for that launch—one team worked on it.” Bernie Coccia was hired as a senior managing director to manage the multi-channel launch of Nuvigil. In other launching news, Maiman adds that Draftfcb launched “a tremendous global campaign for Reyataz,” a Bristol-Myers Squibb HIV drug, “in more than 40 countries.”

Draftfcb expanded into new brands with existing clients as well, adding assignments on Gamunex, Thrombate and Koate with Talecris Biotherapeutics, as well as the “entire Hypermunes product franchise,” according to Maiman. Other expansions include Centocor Ortho Biotech’s Remicade (for dermatology), and numerous brands with Boehringer Ingelheim. 

All of that new business will help to assuage disappointing clinical developments at Merck, Draftfcb’s first major client. Expansion with Merck into its diabetes franchise has been a mixed blessing. Merck announced on June 5 that rolofylline had not met primary or secondary endpoints during phase 3 clinical trials, stalling an NDA submission until at least 2010. Merck discontinued the development of taranabant last October. “You just have to be ready and have other opportunities in the wings,” says Maiman.

When Johnson & Johnson consolidated its agency mix last November, Interpublic Group (IPG), parent of Draftfcb Healthcare, was one of the two big winners. Draftfcb worked on pre-launch creative for Stelara (ustekinumab), a psoriasis treatment discovered by Centocor, which is expected to receive an FDA decision this year. Work on Stelara helped the agency extend into Remicade, according to Maiman.

Maiman and Corbran both attribute Draftfcb’s success this year to the continuous evolution of the agencies offerings, especially in key areas like digital. Although the lion’s share of work falls into the professional area—85%, says Maiman—the line separating different aspects of the business is blurring. “If you start to break out a lot of the work, it sort of flows together,” says Corbran. “It’s almost impossible to do something for the professional side that doesn’t have a patient or caregiver side to it also.” Corbran describes this “pull-through” consumer approach as an area the agency is moving toward, especially in the realms of CRM and CRL. “The development of customer relationship marketing for professionals is becoming more and more of a request from our clients,” says Corbran. “We’ve basically taken all of the best thinking from the legacy company, Draft, known for CRM capabilities, and are now building CRM approaches for our clients. The closed-loop marketing area is moving along extremely fast—it grows for us every day.”

Corbran says the agency recognized early on that CRM and CRL were not just “a flash in the pan,” noting that many of Draftfcb’s clients are already on board with tablet-based PCs. “We became premier providers of closed-loop marketing content development,” says Corbran, adding that Draftfcb is certified with CLM and technology providers such as Exploria and Skura. Connect Tech, a division of Draftfcb specializing in CLM, was the first gold certified partner with Proscape, one of the largest CLM providers.

Draftfcb has hired 25 to 30 employees in the digital area over the last year, according to Maiman, including Lenny Bishop as director of Rated Rx, an interactive division specializing in motion graphics and video, and Theresa Lukey as a senior level digital strategist. “We’ve created best in class [digital] capabilities, with very robust and unique offerings, that I think anyone else in the same space would find competitive,” says Corbran. Other focused growth areas include medical education and managed markets, according to Maiman. Sonnie Kang was brought in to head up ProHealth, the agencies med ed group, with Khawar Khokhar hired to lead the Mosaic Managed Markets group. Maiman also emphasizes the importance the agency’s oncology group, pointing to Margaret Anne Ingram, hired as EVP, managing director and overseeing brand development, strategic partnership and account leadership within Draftfcb’s oncology business unit.

In the quest for talent, Maiman says the economic situation is making it a little easier to attract top talent, since “not everyone is hiring.” Also, Draftfcb’s employee referral plan, combined with professional recruiters, has brought in talent that stays around. “We don’t want people to have to leave for new opportunities,” says Maiman, describing the agency’s rotational opportunities across agencies, therapeutic categories, and different periods of a brand’s life cycle.

One of the major business challenges, which Corbran says Draftfcb has been able to overcome, was that “you had folks creatively and strategically based in a particular medium. In our case it was print. It was a matter of getting our creative folks attuned with the medium itself – writing a monograph is certainly different than writing a web page. We think in a broader sense than just one particular medium, be it digital or print,” says Corbran.

Creating that starfish-like offering, where clients can work with a singular center to utilize disparate services across multiple channels, has been effective for Draftfcb, according to Maiman and Corbran. “Clients are jumping all over the fact that we’re able to bring med ed, managed care, digital, e-detailing programs and more, without having to go through multiple touch points,” says Corbran.

“What prevented clients from consolidating different channels and different services within one agency, was that they assumed the professional work would be great, but the digital or direct would be sub-par,” says Maiman. “If an agency can be successful in providing best in class services, cross platforms, cross channels, cross customers, they will win, because what client wouldn’t want an integrated approach to their business? That’s what we’ve been able to do.”