Top 25 Healthcare consultancies: Top Performers

CHANDLER CHICCO COMPANIES - Rank 1 - Income £9.59m - Growth 31%

Chandler Chicco Companies did not let the success of reaching the top of last year's league table go to its head. In 2008 the agency added another 31 per cent to its business after a huge 47 per cent rise in 2007 - effectively adding a medium-sized agency's fees to the books each year.

MD of European operations Fiona Hall puts the agency's success down to its approach of offering each client a unique solution. 'CCC has never taken a "cookie cutter" approach and this led to our strategy in 2007 of diversifying, while maintaining our flagship brand of Chandler Chicco Agency,' says Hall.

Hall picks out some work it ran for pharma firm Pfizer as a key campaign for the team in 2008. The agency rolled out a non-branded campaign to raise awareness of glaucoma among the general public. The 'Windows to Health' campaign featured Gloria Hunniford and generated more than 93 million media impressions. More than 3,000 people sought advice and 1,200 had a retinal eye check following the campaign.

The agency was shortlisted for PRWeek's Best Places to Work survey 2009 and won The Holmes Report European Healthcare Consultancy 2008, which Hall says were huge achievements.

She predicts 2009 will be a more challenging year across the healthcare sector, with some agencies disappearing. However, she is confident CCC will continue its stellar growth for the year ahead: 'We are predicting growth and so far I see no reason to think we won't meet our goals. Like last year it will be challenging, liberating and exciting for everyone involved.'

2008 AT A GLANCE

High points - Evolving with new offerings. Also, campaigns for clients including the launch of Johnson & Johnson's Diabetes Institute in EMEA

Low points - Continuing to find good new people and trying to be the best in the business is a challenge

AXON COMMUNICATIONS - Rank 8 - Income £2.99m - Growth n/a

Surrey-based Axon Communications stormed into this year's league table at number eight.

Axon managing partner Ralph Sutton says the agency ended 2008 with more business on its books than in any previous year.

Sutton puts the agency's success down to expanding work with existing clients: 'While we did grow our client base, we found that our best growth came from winning new assignments with some of our largest clients, including AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk and Roche.'

Although the recession continues to make headlines, Sutton believes the challenges the pharmaceutical industry faces are not necessarily down to the tough economic climate: 'It is primarily due to a lack of major new launches, at the same time as sales being impacted by patents expiring.'

He also thinks clients were more cautious, which initially meant projects were delayed: 'These projects have, however, generally been given the green light in the second quarter.'

Axon is investing in training to ensure staff have the right skills to service clients during the tough months ahead. Sutton says he is also investing in business development and looking into new areas such as digital communications: 'We are also looking at opportunities such as our newly opened New York office, which is focusing on communications around clinical programmes.'

Sutton admits he is not expecting growth in 2009: 'Healthcare isn't recession-proof. PR can still do well in these circumstances, where clients are looking for smart, effective ways to achieve their marketing objectives.'

2008 AT A GLANCE

High points - Organic growth with clients. Plus the launch of programmes in diabetes and haemophilia starting to have an impact

Low points - There was a certain amount of stopping and starting with a number of projects, making it harder to plan

THE RED CONSULTANCY - Rank 16 - Income £1.55m - Growth 55%

Red Health, the healthcare arm of consumer shop The Red Consultancy, experienced a stellar 2008 and saw its profits rise by more than half.

The offshoot was set up just two years ago by two former Ruder Finn staffers, Pat Pearson and Paul Gittins. The partnership appears to have paid off, with Red Health picking up eight new client wins in 2008 spanning the UK, European and global business.

Red Health director Gittins attributes the agency's success partly to the integration it offers across its business: 'We have continued the integration of health, consumer health and pure consumer across many of our campaigns.'

He adds: 'Clients are increasingly looking for something different in healthcare PR and Red's industry-leading creative approach, combined with our team of ethical health experts, allows us to deliver campaigns that stand out.'

One of Red's key campaigns in 2008 was the 'Give Hope, Give Life' activity for the Department of Health and the National Gamete Donation Trust. 'One of our high points was being contacted and thanked by a lady who had successfully found a donor egg because of the media outreach we conducted for the Department of Health. This is what makes our job worthwhile,' says Gittins.

He forecasts steady growth in 2009, despite budgets tightening and clients becoming 'more demanding'. He says procurement is becoming more significant and pitches involve more agencies than in previous years. However, he believes this offers an opportunity for agencies to be innovative, creative and demonstrate real value.

2008 AT A GLANCE

High points - A mixture of bringing in business, winning awards and great campaigns including the UK launch of Tasigna, a treatment for chronic myeloid leukaemia for Novartis oncology

Low points - Losing our associate director Sophie Binks, who left to go to medical school

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