Top 25 Healthcare PR 2005: Top 25 Profiles

Maja Pawinska looks at some of the stand-out players in a competitive crowd.

7: RED DOOR COMMUNICATIONS - POUNDS 2,456,241

Red Door's fee income shot up from £1.8m to almost £2.5m in 2004. But the healthy environment meant its peers did well too, and even 25 per cent growth was not enough to stop it slipping one place in the table.

The agency was launched in 2000 by MD Catherine Warne and director Julia Harries, and has achieved five years of growth in a row. Warne puts this year's increase down to 'getting the right balance between consolidation and steady growth'.

Growth came from 60 per cent of the firm's existing client base, as well as from wins including AstraZeneca's Crestor, five brands in Schering's hormone and contraception portfolio, and GlaxoSmithKline business in neuroscience and HIV. The agency also won back the Bayer/GSK account for erectile dysfunction treatment Levitra.

Warne says Red Door continues its policy of recruiting before winning new business, because it doesn't want to overstretch its team. And in 2004, it appointed Mark Sudwell from Lilly's corporate affairs team as associate director. According to the agency's research, last year healthcare journalists name-checked Red Door more times than any other PR agency.

However, Warne says several issues will affect the sector this year, including the Health Select Committee report, continuing pharma mergers and acquisitions, and increased pressure to prove healthcare PR's effectiveness.

'We will be expanding our international and OTC work, but we want to be the best, rather than the biggest,' asserts Warne.

7: COHN & WOLFE HEALTHCARE - NO FIGURES AVAILABLE

Sarbanes-Oxley means that Cohn & Wolfe Healthcare's figures are not available, but industry insiders expect the division to have had double-digit growth in 2004.

New wins for 2004 included AstraZeneca's Axanta and new work for Novartis, as well as winning the UK pitch for the Pfizer/Altana respiratory treatment Daxas. Organic growth for the agency came from work across several GlaxoSmithKline brands.

One of the year's highlights was launching Catalyst, its professional relations and medical education arm. The agency hired Mark Lawson, a senior brand manager at GlaxoSmithKline, to head and develop Catalyst. Another senior hire was Andrew Thomas, who joined as an account director from Lowe Fusion.

The agency also works hard to keep the team happy: secondments are offered to agency offices worldwide; away days allow all staff to contribute to business planning; and in 2004, the agency started its Creative Surgery, which gives external specialists such as journalists, event managers and NHS advisers desk space in exchange for input at brainstorming sessions.

Joint MD Jeremy Clark says: 'Competition for major new business will get tougher, and we're quietly confident that we are on top of the policy, media and regulatory environments and have strong enough relationships with clients to move forward.'

9: RESOLUTE COMMUNICATIONS - POUNDS 2,082,316

Resolute had a storming year, doubling its fee income to £2.1m. Again, it is only the success of the rest of the sector that keeps it in the same position in the table this year.

Existing and new clients have bought into the entrepreneurial culture ignited by joint MDs Anna Korving and Paul Blackburn three years ago.

'Clients see us as determined, dynamic and creative, with true grit. The name of the company is exactly right,' asserts Blackburn.

The agency has strengthened its international work and claims true global capability, shown by winning worldwide deals for two Roche oncology drugs, Avastin and Tarceva. New projects also came from Bayer and Procter & Gamble.

Organic growth came from firms including Shire Pharmaceuticals, for which the agency now handles a number of therapeutic areas. PR and medical education for Shire's Xagrid blood-clotting disorder treatment was also among the 2004 wins.

Resolute has a 96 per cent staff retention rate. The team is now 28-strong, up from 13 a year ago. Healthcare industry veteran Phil Sheldon came on board as a director this March, bringing 13 years' experience from his time at Pharmacia in the US, and as head of healthcare for Porter Novelli in New York. He will support the agency's development in the US market. Dr Leo Francis has also joined as a director from medical education house OCC Europe.

This year, the team has a target of £2.25m in fee income. Korving says: 'We've created the kind of agency we always dreamed of working for, but our pace of growth may have to slow so we can maintain client service at a very high level.'

9: OGILVY PR WORLDWIDE - NO FIGURES AVAILABLE

Ogilvy is unable to divulge figures owing to Sarbanes-Oxley, but healthcare practice head Philly Jones asserts that healthcare continued to be a strong area for the agency in 2004.

Jones, who joined Ogilvy last year from her role heading Ruder Finn's global business in New York, says one of the growth factors for the agency has been working more closely with Ogilvy's advertising group in order to provide integrated communications for clients, which include GlaxoSmithKline.

'We are seeing more work where consumer healthcare PR is being integrated with marketing, corporate PR, and internal communications,' she says.

Organic growth came from new projects for clients including Merck, and other new business came in from Schering AG, the European Society of Cardiology and Abbott. Jones is also hoping to expand work in the biotech sector after winning Nabi Biopharmaceuticals. In addition, one of the highlights of 2004 was the UK launch of a Parkinson's disease campaign, featuring Muhammad Ali's daughter.

'We're often perceived as being a very international agency, but in fact we are doing a lot more domestic work,' says Jones. She adds that the healthcare management team has recently worked out that its members have 69 years of healthcare industry experience between them.

Jones has further strategic support in the shape of Ash Coleman-Smith, who joined Ogilvy's board as client services director after running global accounts for Cohn & Wolfe and Edelman.

'His background is not in healthcare, but we are working closely with him to get strategic insights,' she says.

Ogilvy has a good staff retention rate and is not on a huge recruitment drive, but when it does take on new people they are just as likely to be from market research, sales or medical education backgrounds as from healthcare PR. This year is likely to see the agency building on the progress it made in 2004. 'It's a really fantastic time to help shape the group,' says Jones.

9: MEDITECH MEDIA 1 - POUNDS 9,837,115

MediTech Media is still earning more than any other agency in the table by a long way, with yet another strong year of growth in 2004. Healthcare fee income rose to £9.8m: 22 per cent higher than 2003, despite increasing downward pricing pressure from clients and their procurement departments.

Growth at the 18-year-old agency came from a mixture of new business wins and organic growth from retained clients. But the agency has a policy of 'beating the drum for clients rather than ourselves', according to chairman and CEO Stephen Cameron. This includes a policy of not divulging client names.

He does, however, claim that his clients are very happy. Indeed, MediTech carries out regular customer surveys, and in 2004 clients said they particularly valued the agency's scientific and strategic expertise. Cameron believes this puts the agency in a great position to cope with an ever more tightening regulatory framework. Over the past 12 months, the agency has expanded its account teams at all levels, and it now has 170 employees in the UK alone. MediTech also rebranded all promotional materials in order to capture its values - 'innovate, educate, inspire' - including a new website.

Cameron says: 'I am delighted with the company's performance in 2004, which supports further investment and enables us to plan further growth effectively. Our continued success is down to the talent and commitment of employees, as well as our independence, which enables us to remain firmly client-focused.'

He adds that MediTech is expecting to see further growth in 2005 from global full-service communications work for clients across the pharma industry.

11: VIRGO HEALTH PR 11 - POUNDS 1,308,000

Virgo Health jumps into the league table this year, and gains a very impressive 11th place with its first full year of figures. Its 2004 fees were 30 per cent ahead of target, and the agency looks set to repeat its performance in its second financial year, which ends in June 2005. It is on course for fees of £1.8m.

The agency was set up in July 2003 by former head of Cohn & Wolfe Healthcare Angie Wiles and Shire Health London's Sarah Matthew.

It was named PRWeek's Best New Consultancy just a year later. During 2004, the team expanded rapidly to 20 healthcare specialists, including new associate director Caroline Fielding, who came from Shire Health in New York.

The agency has gone after big brands since day one, and claims to have maintained its 100 per cent pitch success rate with five new wins in 2004, including Anadin, a diabetes product for GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingelheim's Dulcolax.

Virgo also won UK work for new osteoporosis treatment Bonviva, a co-promotion from Roche and GSK, which were so impressed with the agency that they later awarded it the global account in a non-competitive pitch. The account balance now stands at 60 per cent UK pharmaceutical, 30 per cent international work and ten per cent consumer health.

Wiles now says the challenge is to maintain measured and intelligent growth: 'We turned down 16 pitch requests last year because we're very conscious that we want to fulfil our promises to existing clients. We're planning to expand to 25 or 30 people and stop there. Beyond that, people and clients are compromised.'

After a launch based on the faces and reputation of the two founding MDs, marketing activity in 2004 shifted towards talking about the agency as a whole. Wiles says one of the highlights was being able to pay everyone a spontaneous bonus last summer: 'Some people actually cried, because they'd never had a bonus before.'

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