Cherchez La Femme

Jun 18, 2007


Look for women in the healthcare advertising industry. Who are they? Do they occupy top positions? And what, if any, difference does gender make?

Women are everywhere. Healthcare advertising has to be one of the few businesses where so many women occupy top positions and actually make a living wage. OK, maybe they're not always at the top, top, but the glass ceiling is high and underneath is a mob of dynamic women (CEOs, presidents, creative directors, senior copywriters, etc.). We couldn't even begin to interview them all. Here are just a few.

Freud famously asked, What do women want? If you are a top female executive who has been given a mandate to transform a leading healthcare agency from the inside out, the answer is heart.


Yes, but not the mushy kind. What Anne Devereux wanted was heart with an edge, a roaring heart, a lion's heart...or should we say, a LyonHeart. Because the other thing Devereux wanted was to change the name from LLNS (aka Lyons Lavey Nickel Swift) to LyonHeart.

The newly transformed LyonHeart agency (scheduled to launch June 4) is Devereux's brainchild. Hired as CEO — as well as CEO of its sibling network, TBWA — just over a year ago, Devereux was given a directive to give LLNS a makeover. "I was told to imbue it with everything good about an agency: dynamism, compassion, smart thinking," says Devereux.

LyonHeart, a full-service healthcare agency specializing in professional advertising, has a staff of over 250 employees and represents such clients as Pfizer, Abbott Laboratories, and Purdue Pharma, with revenues in the $50-plus million range.

"Despite its good record and solid talent pool, LLNS had been flat for a number of years," says Devereux.

Devereux (pictured here on right), whose confidence, focus, and can-do attitude are testament to the old adage that if you want a job done, hire a woman, hailed from BBDO, where she had been chief integration officer. At BBDO, she was responsible for building one of the fastest-growing healthcare units of a major advertising network. At LLNS, she was to put her know-how into transforming something that already existed. And Devereux wasted no time starting.

"We were really lucky to have a strategic approach in place, inherited from our sister agency [TBWA], called 'Disruption'. Disruption is a process to change the rules of the marketplace, to give a client a greater share of the future," says Devereux. "It helps to reframe what you've been doing in a way that achieves an advantage. We do it all the time for clients, but shockingly we had never done it for ourselves."

Part of the relaunching process involved a period of intense self-analysis. "We did market research with clients who were no longer clients because we hadn't done a good job; with clients who stayed with us because we did a good job; and even with prospective clients, the ones we'd never been able to get. We wanted to understand what things they were looking for," says Devereux. They also benefited from their parent group Omnicom's savvy in executing comparative assessments.

Suddenly Susan

At the six-month mark, it was time to hire a new president. "We recognized the need for dramatic leadership and phenomenal communication," says Devereux. "The agency had not been aggressively leading, nor communicating very well either internally or to clients, which was just one of the reasons we hired Susan Flinn."

Devereux interviewed 25 candidates before finding Flinn. The two women hit it off immediately. "It was like we were separated at birth," says Devereux. "But we also seemed different enough to be able to bring different things to the table."

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