Healthcare: Top 25 Healthcare Consultancies

Healthcare PR bucked industry trends with some solid growth figures, finds Cathy Wallace.

It is widely accepted that in a recession, the healthcare industry holds up better than many others. This has a knock-on effect on healthcare PR and, as the top 25 league table shows, 2009 remained a profitable year for some.

Chandler Chicco Companies retained top spot in the healthcare top 25, posting a healthy growth of 11 per cent compared with 2008. There was also strong growth in Edelman's healthcare team, which increased fee income by eight per cent compared with 2008. Some healthcare-only shops had absolutely bumper years. Most notably, Just Health PR grew revenues by 60 per cent, while Virgo Health, Pegasus and Galliard Healthcare also did well in 2009.

But specialising in healthcare did not guarantee success last year. Healthcare agency Red Door Communications saw income fall by three per cent compared with 2008. And, conversely, several agencies that have a healthcare arm, such as The Red Consultancy, Say and Waggener Edstrom, saw strong growth regardless of how well other parts of the agency fared in 2009.

New entries to the healthcare table included Luther Pendragon, CCD Public Relations and GyroHRS/Woolley Pau PR.

Once again, FD provided healthcare figures for 2009 even though the agency declines to enter the Top 150 league tables overall, claiming it is restricted by the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

FD's healthcare arm shrank nine per cent in 2009 compared with 2008.

The big healthcare news in 2009 was the acquisition of Tonic Life Communications by Huntsworth Health in July.

A restructure in October 2009 saw Tonic Life become the dominant PR operation at Huntsworth, where the European medical comms team has been rebranded as ApotheCom.

Rank in Company/ Healthcare fee % Total PR %Total Staff
Top 150 Location income(pounds k) chg income 09 PR
09 08 (pounds k) income

1 19 Chandler Chicco 10,642 9,591 11 10,642 100 100
2 23 Tonic Life 8,103 **8,164 -1 8,503 95 77
3 5 Edelman 6,815 6,302 8 25,734 26.5 255
4 *** FD Healthcare 5,476 6,048 -9 5,476 100 36
5 46 Red Door 4,573 4,721 -3 4,573 100 46
6 50 Virgo Health 4,100 3,504 17 4,100 100 45
7 58 Galliard Healthcare 3,608 3,233 12 3,608 100 23
8 66 Just:: Health PR 2,869 1,798 60 3,005 95 22
9 73 Axon Communications 2,684 2,993 -10 2,684 100 25
10 79 Pegasus Public 2,235 2,106 6 2,421 92.5 30
West Sussex
11 18 The Red Consultancy 1,773 1,550 14 11,722 15 152
12 64 Hanover 1,696 1,858 -9 3,129 56 34
13 9 Citigate Dewe 1,671 1,719 -3 18,967 10 111
14 16 College Hill 1,626 2,142 -24 14,421 11 171
15 97 Myriad Public 1,595 1,588 0 1,683 94 15
16 104 Reynolds-MacKenzie 1,438 1,402 3 1,488 97 15
17 62 Munro & Forster 1,273 1,110 15 3,334 38 40
18 41 Freshwater UK 855 889 -4 5,447 15.5 82
19 29 Kindred Agency 843 668 26 7,047 12 91
20 110 Say Communications 816 655 25 1,322 62 14
21 28 Lexis Public 739 808 -9 7,034 11 87
22 122 GyroHSR/ 597 NE NA 1,106 54 20
Woolley Pau PR
23 146 CCD Public 528 NE NA 528 100 8
24 34 Luther Pendragon 500 NE NA 6,000 8 59
25 72 Waggener Edstrom 461 289 60 2,769 16.5 49

* Including Huntsworth Health's ApotheCom PR
** Combined 2009 fee income for Tonic Life and Huntsworth Health
*** FD declines to enter the Top 150 league tables, but FD Healthcare provides audited figures for the healthcare tables
NE = New Entry
NA = Not Applicable

0% - Increase in Just Health's fee income in 2009 compared with 2008

24% - Drop in College Hill's health fee income compared with 2008

500k - Health fee income for new top-25 entry Luther Pendragon

60% - Increase in Waggener Edstrom's health fee income compared with 2008


Position: 1

Fees: £10,642k

Growth: 11%

Once again Chandler Chicco Companies reigned supreme at the summit of the healthcare league tables. 'We came into 2009 off the back of another year of significant growth in 2008,' says European MD Fiona Hall. 'It was a busy year, but a really positive one. We won some new clients and hung on to all of our existing clients.' With this kind of performance, leading to a growth of 11 per cent, it is no surprise that Hall says there were no real low points for the agency in 2009.

New faces joining the Chandler Chicco team included Caroline Maddock, who joined from Cohn & Wolfe, and Karine Jegard, who came from Hill & Knowlton. There were also some key internal promotions for Neil Beasley, who became MD of the Biosector 2 division, and Kelly Teasdale, to MD at Ingenda division.

In terms of account wins, Hall points to the agency's Allidura consumer healthcare division winning a campaign for smoothie maker Innocent. 'It's a really cool, funky brand and a great opportunity for the team,' she says.

Big campaigns included Windows for Health for Pfizer, a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of early diagnosis of glaucoma, and work for Litmus' Women for Positive Action in HIV, a partnership that promotes care and equality for women living with the condition.

While some healthcare agencies have reported a degree of nervousness among clients when it comes to social media, Hall says clients were asking what Chandler Chicco could do in this area in 2009. 'In the pharmaceutical world, there were some reservations but there is a desire to understand it better.' Despite the economic situation in 2009, Hall, who has worked through three recessions, says: 'Health tends to be the last sector to be affected and the first to return.'


High points of 2009

Evolving the business model, driven by the needs of clients, and creating opportunities for staff. Seeing parts of the business come into their own.

Low points of 2009

There were none.


Position: 6

Fees: £4,100k

Growth: 17%

Virgo Health co-MD Angie Wiles says 2009 was one of the agency's best years to date, as demonstrated by its impressive growth figures. '2008 was a tougher year for the healthcare industry as a whole,'

she says, pointing to an unexpected government renegotiation of PPRS, the percentage of profit the pharmaceutical industry gives back to the Government. 'The Government renegotiated three years into a five-year deal and that sent shock waves through the industry.'

Off the back of this and in anticipation of a difficult 2009, Virgo ramped up the pitching early in the year, and Wiles said this led to some very fruitful business. 'We won some really big accounts early on,' she says. These included the global business for cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix and the UK and Europe launch of weight-loss drug Alli.

Just as crucial was the agency's organic growth of existing clients. 'We put on almost £1m of organic growth,' says Wiles. 'That represents a real show of confidence and belief in what we are doing for our existing clients.'

The agency hired 14 new people in 2009, including Paul Archer from WPP medical education shop Darwin Grey, and Rebecca Rhodes from Cohn & Wolfe.

A disappointment for Wiles in 2009 was the industry's fear of embracing digital and social media. 'We wrote a couple of articles and blogs about it, and wanted it to have made an impact.

But clients are using regulations as an excuse not to further explore what they can do.

'There are a few that have put their toes in, but a lot are incredibly nervous.' She adds that Virgo has 'invested a lot' in digital and social media, and is hoping clients will become more confident.

'Healthcare is always behind consumer on things such as this,' she acknowledges.


High points of 2009

Exciting hires such as Archer and Rhodes which enhanced the team.

Low point of 2009

Having to work harder to make the same amount of money.


Position: 20

Fees: £816k

Growth: 25%

Say Communications joint MD and head of health Stefi Rucci says 2009 was a 'successful' year for the agency, and its growth in fee income of 25 per cent compared with 2008 reflects this view. The agency also celebrated its 25th birthday. 'It was a strange year, people continued to spend but in a different way,' she says. 'The briefs from some existing clients changed, there was a preference for more cost-effective products and an emphasis on ROI.'

Despite this change in emphasis, Say was able to keep all its clients in 2009, as well as add new ones. Rucci says the NHS was a good source of business with several foundation trusts coming on board. Even with the looming public sector spending cuts, Rucci is confident Say has a portfolio in place to ride out the storm. 'It will have an impact, but we do not tend to offer the tactical aspects, as the NHS always feels it can do that in-house. Our relationship with some of the foundation trusts is at a senior level, offering strategic advice, and we believe this kind of business will continue.'

Rucci says the organic growth the agency managed in 2009, developing existing clients, was key to Say's success.

She points to an account with Aptamil, an infant nutrition company, as a key example. 'We traditionally had a medical education brief with the firm, but it handed us the consumer outreach work. That was the case with many clients last year.'

The agency recruited several new team members in 2009, including Elizabeth Shearing-Green, who joined from Cohn & Wolfe as an account director. 'We recruited to specific needs, such as medical writing, which was an area we needed to enhance,' says Rucci.

Looking ahead, Rucci hopes the agency will retain and add to its mixture of pharmaceutical, functional foods and NHS clients.


High points of 2009

Growing existing clients organically and bringing in new clients, and celebrating Say's 25th birthday.

Low points of 2009

Coming second on a couple of pitches 'which we knew we should have won'.

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