TOP 50: HEALTHCARE PR CONSULTANCIES: A prescription for PR success - As patient knowledge increases and more medicines are available over the counter, healthcare specialists are changing tack and targeting consumers in their latest branding drives. Nick P

The Lowe Group’s acquisition of Fusion in May 1998 was further evidence of the continuing attractiveness of health PR to advertising and marketing services groups and all kinds of holding companies. Last June Medical Action Communications was snapped up by US-based Quintiles Transnational Corporation, the world’s largest contract pharmaceutical organisation.

The Lowe Group’s acquisition of Fusion in May 1998 was further

evidence of the continuing attractiveness of health PR to advertising

and marketing services groups and all kinds of holding companies. Last

June Medical Action Communications was snapped up by US-based Quintiles

Transnational Corporation, the world’s largest contract pharmaceutical


And even publishing companies have been getting in on the act - last

July Blackwell Science bought specialist healthcare agency Bullet


Scott Clark, managing director of CPR Worldwide, one of the few

remaining independents in the healthcare top 10, is not surprised at

this buying frenzy. ’The margins in healthcare PR, as in IT, tend to be

higher than in general consumer PR. It seems every holding company out

there is trying to buy a healthcare PR agency.’

Another reason for the interest in health PR agencies is that more of

the marketing budget is going on PR. Peter Holden, managing director of

healthcare at Grayling says that more clients are asking PR and

advertising agencies to meet up at the beginning of campaigns to spot

possible synergies.

Hill and Knowlton is finding that more of its healthcare clients are

asking it to employ the kind of brand building techniques normally

associated with consumer marketing. Karen Moyse, managing director of

H&K’s UK healthcare and pharmaceutical practice says:’Brand building

becomes essential to stay in business when you need to take patients

with you when a product switches from POM to OTC.’

As pharmaceutical companies spend more on pre-marketing, PR agencies are

being brought in earlier. ’The emphasis continues to switch to

pre-launch and we will get involved earlier and earlier in the launch

process,’ says Neil Kendle, chairman of Lowe Fusion healthcare.

The hype surrounding the launch of the male impotency pill Viagra in the

UK is an extreme example of the kind of interest that can be


It’s evidence too, believes Angie Searle, director of healthcare at Cohn

and Wolfe, of the media’s growing interest in health matters. ’We’ve

seen a massive shift already in terms of the space devoted to health

education and information in newspapers and magazines.’

Direct consumer communication is becoming increasingly important in

healthcare PR as consumers’ knowledge about the products and treatments

available improves. ’In the UK and Europe, HIV awareness and cancer

patient lobby groups are pressing for more of a role in what’s being

prescribed,’ says Shire Hall Group chief executive, Margot James.

’We’ve done a number of education campaigns in Europe, for example with

the European Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Cancer, that

encourages patients to push for access to drugs that have already

appeared on the market,’ says Clark. Grayling was another agency to do

more work in patient education. It ran a seminar at its offices on

behalf of NAPP Laboratories, which runs the Morphine Information Line.

John McVicar, whose mother died in great pain because she was not given

the right dose of morphine, was there to put across the patient’s point

of view, in a debate with a medical consultant that attracted a lot of

media attention.

As well as more communication direct to consumers, there has also been a

trend towards communicating with purchasers. ’Particularly in high-cost

areas like oncology, companies are focusing on purchasers rather than

prescribers,’ says Martin Godfrey, head of the European health and

pharmaceutical practice at Hill and Knowlton.

Pharmaceutical companies are also being hit by a drive by governments in

Europe to contain costs. One of the consequences is more global


’We’re seeing a growing commitment by companies to global campaigns that

can be tailored,’ says Averill Gordon, director of healthcare at


The agency continues to develop its global healthcare task force, which

directs programmes and provides centralised feedback. The Shandwick team

in London developed a core programme for Medtronic’s Parkinson’s disease

implant product and co-ordinated it across Europe. ’It was tailored to

different offices, but the messages were all the same,’ explains


The pharmaceutical market may be buoyant at present, but there are

increasing pressures. Improvements in technology mean there are far more

products in the pipeline than there were in the past and products are

coming to market much faster. ’This is creates more business

opportunities, but we also have to compress marketing activity into a

shorter timeframe,’ says James. Further consolidation in the

pharmaceutical industry could also create problems for PR agencies,

warns Clark. ’If one of your clients gets taken over you have to ask

what that does to budgets. It’s one of the hurdles you have to

anticipate - not to have too many eggs in one basket.’


Rk  Company                 UK       %       Total  Staff  Agency type

97                     health-   o’all      UK fee

                          care  income      income

                        income               1997,

                         1997,              pounds


1   Medical Action   6,530,000     100   6,530,000     75  Healthcare

    Communications                                         specialist

2   Shire Hall       4,167,000     100   4,167,000     62  Healthcare

    Group                                                  specialist

3   Meditech         3,626,000      98   3,700,000     80  Healthcare/

    Media*                                                 charity

4   Hill and         2,250,360      12  18,753,000    243  Full service


5   CPR Worldwide1   2,033,611     100   2,033,611     33  Healthcare


6   Shandwick UK     2,030,720       8  25,384,000    382  Full service

7   Holmes and       1,795,200      51   3,520,000     53  Full service


8   Scope Ketchum    1,705,150      20   8,699,745    132  Full service


9   Lowe Fusion3     1,576,707     100   1,576,707     21  Healthcare


10  The Grayling     1,513,073      22   6,940,700    105  Full service


11  Cohn and Wolfe   1,256,275      30   4,187,583     67  Full service

12  Edelman PR       1,140,368      16   7,127,300     65  Full service


13  Munro and        1,135,674      55   2,064,862     45  Full service



14  Greenlines       1,103,051     100   1,103,051     19  Healthcare

    Healthcare                                             specialist


15  The Workhouse    1,032,046     100   1,032,046      8  Healthcare


16  Charles Barker   1,026,128      15   6,840,850     79  Full service


17  Manning,           897,120      24   3,738,000     48  Full service


    and Lee

18  Ruder Finn UK      876,332      75   1,168,443     19  Healthcare/


19  Harvard PR         862,800      20   4,314,000     55  Healthcare/



20  Countrywide        851,952       5  17,039,032    246  Full service

    Porter Novelli

21  Euro RSCG          798,390      10   8,146,841    143  Full service



22  GCI                715,274      14   5,109,100     83  Full service


23  Weber PR           625,031       6  10,417,177    148  Full service


24  Sante              623,221     100     623,221     14  Healthcare

    Communications                                         specialist

25  Jonathan           412,852      70     589,789     11  Healthcare/

    Street PR                                              public



26  Landmark           374,200      40     935,501     11  Healthcare/

    Corporate Comms                                        hi-tech/


27  EMC Euro PR        317,764      35     907,898     17  Healthcare/


28  Harrison Cowley    304,085       8   3,801,066     89  Full service

29  RedP Last year     289,406      12   2,411,719     55  Full service



30  Nexus Choat        273,700      14   1,955,000     35  Full service

31  BMA                253,204      18   1,406,691     16  Full service


32  Packer Forbes      231,487      85     272,338     10  Healthcare/



33  Fishburn Hedges    227,100       5   4,542,006     51  Full service

34  The                226,380       7   3,234,000     41  Full service



35  Keene              219,840      15   1,465,600     22  Full service


36  Golley Slater      172,128       9   1,912,534     39  Full service


37  Myriad PR          154,773      25     619,092     21  Health/



38  Staniforth PR      143,280       8   1,910,402     39  Full service

39  Insight            140,000      10   1,400,000     23  Health/

    Marketing                                              hi-tech


40  Barkers PR         139,801       7   1,997,164     41  Full service

41  Fleishman-         133,987       6   2,233,124     25  Full service

    Hillard UK

42  Square Mile        132,156       7   1,887,940     28  Financial/

    Communications                                         corporate

43  Consolidated       129,818       5   2,596,357     51  Full service


44  AIMM               114,526      30     381,754      4  Full service

45  LSA                112,425      20     562,125     13  Healthcare/



46  Grant Butler       102,006       6   1,700,097     34  Full service


47  The Leedex          96,310       5   1,926,200     38  Full service


48  Attenborough        82,323       5   1,646,452     24  Full service


49  Infopress           82,020       6   1,367,000     27  Full service

50  Bryant Jackson      79,928       8     999,100     13  Healthcare/

    Communications                                         consumer

All figures relate to the year ended 31 December 1997.

Fee income = PR fees + mark-up.

All figures are certified by an auditor except those marked *.

Only agencies where healthcare accounts for five per cent or more of UK

fee income are included.

1 Formerly known as Complete Pharma.

2 Includes UK healthcare income for Life PR.

3 Formerly known as Fusion.

- Last year’s top consultancy Burson-Marsteller has declined to enter.

It is unable to separate its UK healthcare income from overall


- Last year Grayling came up with a way of underpinning the advertising

campaign for NAPP Laboratories’ new calcium blocker for hypertension,

Zanidip. GPS were asked to write a scenarios for a TV drama on

hypertension, including one of the characters in the advertising

campaign, and over 500 doctors responded.

- Healthcare PR agencies are welcoming the chance to play a more

strategic role. For its client Janssen, Scope Ketchum Healthcare has

been involved in the whole strategic development of Risperdal, the

anti-psychotic drug for schizophrenia

- Hill and Knowlton took a bold approach for client the Migraine Action

Trust. It used a virtual reality headset to show the medical profession

and the public what a migraine is like.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in