Profiles: Agency Profiles

Mary Cowlett examines key issues that made an impact on several agencies in 2003.

ASHLEY COMMUNICATIONS 10 - POUNDS 1,071,806 G

A newcomer to the healthcare league table, Ashley Communications comprises five account directors and two freelance healthcare PR consultants, who each, for the most part, work from home.

'The philosophy has always been to create the ultimate in work/life balance for employees, allowing us to recruit and, more importantly, retain the best practitioners,' says founder and chairman Chrissie Ashley.

The firm was set up in 1996, and clients include Boehringer Ingelheim UK, Elan, Roche International, Roche UK and Schering Europe. Last year, the agency grew healthcare fee income by 25 per cent to over £1m. This was mainly through increased work for long-time client Allergan UK on its recent launch of Botox in the area of hyperhydrosis - excessive sweating - and a pre-launch programme for an overactive bladder treatment from Yamanouchi Europe. Despite not pitching, the agency also picked up two accounts from vaccine specialist Chiron and Fujitsu in the area of the NHS.

Throughout the year, activities focused on satellite symposia, including an event at the International Continence Society Congress in Florence in October 2003 for Yamanouchi Europe. The agency also put together client-sponsored European and local education initiatives, advisory boards and key opinion leader developments, including extranets.

Over the past three years, the firm has invested heavily in technology to provide efficiencies and responsiveness for clients and greater flexibility and involvement for employees.

BIOSECTOR2 14 - POUNDS 559,323 G

Established in June 2002, Biosector2 is part of Chandler Chicco Agency, which has offices in both London and New York.

Despite its name, the agency is more than a biotechnology specialist and is dedicated to a range of products, from medical devices to pharmaceutical brands.

'Our focus is innovation and our aim is to work on products that are revolutionary,' says Charlotte Ersboell, who joined the agency as managing director in June last year from Manning Selvage & Lee, where she was European head of healthcare.

As many of its clients are small, Biosector2 seeks to provide a comprehensive communications package across financial and corporate PR, healthcare policy and regulatory affairs. There is also a strong emphasis on social marketing to ensure that clients have an ethical presence. As such, founding client Novo Nordisk broadened its diabetes work with the agency last year to embrace corporate communications, stakeholder relations and new potential indications for its Nova Seven franchise.

New clients since set-up include US biopharma firm Millennium, which launched its cancer treatment brand DELCADE in 2003. More recently, the agency has also attracted the newly created Oxford Diabetes Centre and the World Diabetes Foundation, a charity that fights disease in the developing world.

As a newcomer to the market, Biosector2 experienced phenomenal fee income growth of 189 per cent last year, and the company now boasts eight employees.

Ersboell says: 'Our philosophy is to be selective and have long-term relationships with clients, so I don't think you'll see us being overtly hungry for new business.'

FLEISHMAN-HILLARD - No figures available

Fleishman-Hillard's UK healthcare subsidiary of CPR Worldwide underwent fundamental change this March with the resignation of managing director Oliver Parsons.

This left the agency with general manager Lorna Baxter and head of medical education arm The Remedy Kate Hawker in temporary control, while CPR CEO and co-founder Steve Carroll returned from a sabbatical to work two days a week and recruit a new MD.

According to the latest figures from Companies House, CPR Worldwide's fee income for 2002 was more than £2m, with a further £1m derived from CPR UK Healthcare and The Remedy. However, this sum excluded healthcare revenue from F-H itself and public affairs arm GPC Group.

Over the past 12 months, CPR has picked up new clients including Acambis, which put its smallpox vaccine business the agency's way. Other wins include cardiovascular product Plavix, jointly marketed with Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi, and a breast cancer brief for Pfizer.

Growth has also been organic, with increased work from the agency's two biggest clients - AstraZeneca's stroke treatment Cerovive and GlaxoSmithKline's prostate treatment Avodart. It is also helping GSK with a new indication for its epilepsy treatment Lamictal, in the area of mood disorder. In addition, the firm began work this month on a cross-industry pan-European patient-awareness programme for heart failure, which will be rolled out in the UK, France, Germany and Italy.

'We're looking for continued growth, both in terms of our existing client base and seeking new business,' says Carroll.

Most recent group projects include joint media relations and public affairs programmes for Bayer Biologicals and US-based nutritional supplements company Nutrition 21.

MEDITECH MEDIA 1 - POUNDS 8,050,832 G

Maintaining its position at the top of the table, MediTech Media (MTM) grew fee income by 19 per cent in 2003 to break through the £8m mark.

In Europe, the MTM group now works with seven of the top ten global pharma firms, including GlaxoSmithKline, the majority on an international remit.

'This is a key factor, because it provides us with resilience to local downturns and extended periods of pharma spend as initiatives roll out across international regions,' says group CEO and head of UK operations Stephen Cameron.

In 2003, MTM negotiated preferred supplier contracts with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Meanwhile, the agency succeeded in retaining more than 90 per cent of its accounts, extending services to existing clients, including Roche and GSK.

Throughout the year, work with Bristol-Myers Squibb increased significantly across all of MTM's offices, spanning London, Manchester, Munich, Atlanta, Princeton, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Sydney, which provided strategic advice and project delivery.

'Ensuring seamless integration of all our teams and offices worldwide has been both a challenge and a success born out of significant investment in systems, staff training and their willingness to provide the highest level of service,' adds Cameron.

While staffing numbers have stayed steady, HR recruitment has focused on attracting senior individuals to expand experience in therapy areas, including oncology, respiratory and endocrinology.

Although professional relations continues to be a cornerstone of MTM services, electronic and multimedia services have grown substantially over the past 12 months, with most clients now including items such as global web-meeting programmes in their requirements.

MUNRO & FORSTER COMMUNICATIONS 2 - £3,462,000 G

Taking the number two slot, Munro & Forster (M&F) increased healthcare fee income by 16 per cent to just under £3.5m last year. This success was achieved on the back of an MBO, led by chairman Brian Gunson at the beginning of 2003.

Following this shake-up, the agency has developed a new HR policy, linking staff training and bonuses more closely to core competencies and business performance. In addition, M&F has upgraded internal functions to include, for the first time, a financial and operations director, Laura Kinghorn, who joined from WPP-owned direct marketing arm Black Cat Agency in March.

'With 55 staff - soon to be 60 - we are going through the growing pains of putting the people and systems in place to take the next big step up,' says managing director Julie Flexen.

Earlier this year, the firm set up a new political and stakeholder counsel practice headed by Dave Roberts, a former associate director at Connect Public Affairs. This service aims to engage clients with the decision-makers who influence public health policy.

The agency is also establishing a new-business function and looking at further new services.

Major business wins over the past 12 months include Pfizer's cardiovascular medicine Caduet, the Department for Health's Hepatitis C and Smoke-Free London campaigns, plus Pfizer Consumer Healthcare's hair-loss treatment Regaine.

Meanwhile, existing clients such as AstraZeneca, the Home Office and Cephalon have put more work the agency's way.

Last June, the firm's five-year relationship with GlaxoSmithKline's NiQuitin CQ treatment came to an end, following the brand's move into F1 sponsorship.

Last month, the agency also decided to resign its Lloyds Pharmacy account.

SHIRE HEALTH GROUP - No figures available

The most recent financial information available from Companies House puts Shire Health Group's (SHG) fee income for 2002 at more than £7.5m.

This figure includes Shire Health London, Shire Health International, medical education firm 4D and digital communications arm Olog-e.

Since then, the agency has launched two new companies: clinical trials recruitment specialist Fast4wD and Sugar Consulting, which markets health brands to consumers.

According to group CEO Gloria Gibbons, the firm picked up 37 business wins in 2003. New clients included AstraZeneca, plus Eli Lilly on a UK and global remit. This success was backed by strong organic growth, with SHG winning new brands from existing clients, such as Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Roche.

Over the past 12 months, the firm's strategy has been to grow existing PR business services with a focus on global accounts.

In addition, the group has strengthened its policy to develop and support its talent. 'We have created a flexible business structure where we can accommodate interests and business passions of key staff so they can develop their own business ventures. This is how Fast4wD was born,' says Gibbons.

However, the group has experienced some key personnel changes. Last November, Shire Health London MD Fiona Hall quit to join Weber Shandwick as Europe healthcare MD. In January this year,

she was replaced by Matt de Gruchy, who was promoted from director of operations for the group's international arm.

In January, Ian Dorrian from healthcare advertising agency Big Blue replaced Sarah Matthew as Sugar MD. Matthew left last summer to launch new agency Virgo Health PR.

Structural changes during the year have included merging Olog-e with Sugar, while Shire International is now the largest operation in the group.

Proposed developments for 2004 include establishing a US base for medical education and clinical trial recruitment.

Key

X Top 25 ranking

G Income growth

H Negative income growth

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