Top 100 Agencies 2015: GA Communication Group

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GA Communication Group's responsive website for Obagi Medical Products
GA Communication Group's responsive website for Obagi Medical Products

Even-keeled is probably the most succinct description of Chicago-headquartered GA Communication Group. Organic growth with long-standing clients and a steady double-digit growth trajectory are both characteristic of the agency. And while both held true last year, the agency also steadily continued to evolve. 

Three new agencies joined Sandbox, the independent network that GA CEO Joe Kuchta and COO Mark Goble helped form in 2013. GA is the network's only pure healthcare agency, and its affiliation with varied agencies is contributing to GA's evolution. 

“Sandbox really started to take shape last year,” Kuchta expalins. “It's adding a whole new dimension to GA and gives us additional resources to help with all of our growth. As we incorporate [the network resources] more into the capability story we tell, it gets clients' attention and adds cachet.”  

Underline Communications, a New York City–based CRM agency that works with blue-chip consumer brands, joined Sandbox last year. Tapping Underline's expertise is helping GA drive outstanding results for its clients, Kuchta says.   

Revenue last year was up to $23.1 million and new business wins were a definite highlight. The agency began a relationship with Pharmacyclics, which awarded corporate work and HCP AOR for oncology product Imbruvica (co-promoted with Johnson & Johnson). The relationship expanded this year to include patient AOR on Imbruvica.  

GA also won two big AOR assignments from existing clients Upsher-Smith and BioMarin, the former for a pipeline epilepsy drug, the latter for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. 

“I'm proud of our new assignments,” Kuchta says. “All were won in competitive pitches. We're the type of agency that doesn't have to pitch much. We don't have the roller coaster of losing a lot of business. It was a watershed moment to win three out of three significant assignments.”

Between 30% and 40% of GA's business is now with West Coast–based clients. The San Diego office relocated to Los Angeles last year, which is close to Long Beach client Obagi and nearer to NorCal clients, including BioMarin and Pharmacyclics.  

Head count was up about five, to 105, at the end of 2014 and hit 120 by mid-2015. Finding the right talent was last year's biggest challenge, but the agency is drawing new employees from all over the country. 

“It's competitive out there,” Kuchta says. “There aren't a lot of people on the street now. We've made a commitment to never just fill seats with butts. We've been slow and deliberate about finding the caliber of people we want, and that has been a challenge. I'd rather have those kinds of issues than not having enough business.” 

Kuchta is expecting 2015 to be an explosive growth year. Yet as always, he's focused on making sure existing clients are happy.

“We have a current base of more than $20 mil­lion in business that needs just as much energy, ­ex­citement and attention as our new wins,” he notes. “We want to make sure that blends seamlessly.” 

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