LLNS discovered in 2013 that just about the only thing better than one year of double-digit growth is a second year of double-digit growth immediately following it. The continued growth came from many different angles. LLNS won the AOR assignment for the global and US launch of a Novartis Oncology brand; enjoyed substantial growth from its HMR Healthy Solutions at Home weight-loss account; launched Direct VUE, a direct-to-studio division to serve DePuy Synthes, a J&J medical-device company; and experienced a doubling of revenue and staff in Economic VUE, its payer division. But you won’t hear the usual buzzwords from the leadership at LLNS regarding the reasons for their agency’s success. When asked, agency president Janet Donnelly uses a term one doesn’t hear very often in the world of pharma marketing: “sideways thinking.”

“I think clients are looking for agencies to provide more holistic solutions to their marketing challenges – not just from the agency’s specific area of expertise,” Donnelly says. “It’s no longer just about the pill or device but rather how the brand can deliver value along the entire patient journey. This often requires a multi-discipline approach—what we call sideways thinking—to deliver innovative customer solutions that lead to better acceptance of the product and build either brand or company loyalty or ideally both.”

This sideways thinking didn’t protect LLNS from the occasional strike of uncontrollable bad luck in 2013—the agency lost the account for Xalkori (an ALK+ inhibitor for non-small cell lung cancer) due to the Pfizer agency consolidation. But even that turned out well enough, since Xalkori was immediately replaced on the roster with the agency-of-record assignment for the global and US launch for Novartis’s ALK+ inhibitor Zykadia, approved in April 2014 for the treatment of ALK+ metastatic non-small cell lung cancer following treatment with crizotinib. The agency also took charge of the full HCP launch of Actavis’s Oxytrol, the first Rx overactive bladder patch to go over-the-counter. And LLNS’s payer division, Economic VUE, continued to diversify its client roster, adding Merck Consumer Care and Merrimack.

The agency also expanded its horizons by working on corporate branding assignments for two startup companies in the device space, including creating visual and verbal identities and company manifestos. And LLNS’s long-standing commitment to the world of devices and diagnostics took concrete form, quite literally, when the agency opened Direct VUE, a direct-to-studio division located in West Chester, PA, to serve DePuy Synthes, with a primary emphasis on providing a cost-effective means for content and asset repurposing.

“At LLNS we think it’s important to bring our clients whatever it takes to solve a business challenge,” ­Donnelly says. “We continue to be strong collaborators with other agencies to bring our clients the best business solutions. We also think access and reimbursement will continue to play a critical role—with more of the marketing budget shifting to a payer focus vs. HCP promotion. We see this with the exponential growth Economic VUE experienced this past year.”

While LLNS has plans to continue growing its pharma base of clients, the agency’s leaders are also intrigued with pursuing other healthcare-related areas—prescription-to-OTCs, retail clinics, hospital systems—especially as healthcare reform reshapes the medical treatment landscape. “We need to think less traditionally about business opportunities and explore new options that may not typically be considered,” Donnelly says.