McCann Managed Markets

McCann Managed Markets (MMM) president Kim Wishnow-Per is too savvy and too familiar with the vagaries of the agency business to crow about a positive turn of fortune. But when discussing her company’s crackerjack 2013, she can’t hide the hint of pride that creeps into her voice.

“It was a crazy year,” she says. “Great growth, new clients, new work from existing clients. You almost don’t want to say too much about it.”

At the same time, Wishnow-Per is capable of viewing her company with some degree of objectivity. When asked whether the recent successes of MMM might be at least partially attributable to its particular focus—there aren’t too many pharma and healthcare brands that don’t have a payer-related challenge of some sort, leaving A-list payer firms like MMM in an enviable position—she doesn’t entirely disagree.

“Is it right-place-at-the-right-time? There’s probably some of that,” she responds. “But over the years, by working hard and finding the right people, I think we put ourselves in position to be able to take advantage when the time came. It wasn’t just luck.”

Wishnow-Per reports that MMM grew its revenues by 24% in 2013 and says that the agency is on pace for another strong set of results in 2014. On the organic-growth front, it expanded its relationships with Genentech (additional work from Genentech Access Solutions), GlaxoSmithKline (on the payer launch of COPD drug Breo), Novartis (digital work on its oncology products), AstraZeneca (as payer agency for heart drug Brilinta) and Novo Nordisk (on a project for diabetes drug Levemir). Among the new clients reeled in were Actavis.

Some of this work was landed alongside MMM’s sister firms in the McCann Health family, and Wishnow-Per speaks warmly of the deep level of collaboration. “That’s one of our growth engines, leveraging the power of McCann Health. It’s a resource we don’t take for granted,” she says, before adding, “Let’s be honest: leveraging existing relationships is a lot easier than going in cold.”

In April, MMM helped birth the family’s newest member: McCann TL Managed Markets, which Wishnow-Per describes as “an expansion agency.” The details are a bit fuzzy—as of mid-May, Wishnow-Per said it was too early to make predictions about headcounts or client ranks—but the new firm appears to have been created to help MMM manage its growth. It’s a savvy move, one that allows McCann Health to accommodate potential MMM conflict clients without losing them to a managed-markets shop outside its corporate aegis.

The new firm’s creation partially answers the question of how MMM managed its growth without overly straining its resources, human and otherwise. It brought in one high-level staffer in May—SVP of strategy Greg Novello—but otherwise didn’t expand its executive ranks significantly. MMM has also looked for secondary support in nontraditional places, among them the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University. The firm hires students as summer interns and rotates them through the agency during the year. “They get great experience and we get the chance to work with these smart, driven students,” Wishnow-Per adds.

Nonetheless, Wishnow-Per admits to worrying about keeping her people happy and motivated at a time when they’re insanely busy—not to mention, given their managed-markets expertise, in high demand within the industry. “We’re serious about our clients, but also about the growth of our employees,” she promises.