THINK OF IT THIS WAY:
Everyone knows someone who knows everything about restaurants in a given city. Not just the best restaurants, but the restaurants best suited for whatever the occasion.
Want to take the kids to Sunday brunch not too far from home? Call your friend and she'll tell you the perfect place for the whole family to enjoy. Even better, she'll give you a choice of three, one of which serves a to-die-for banana split.Or maybe you're looking for more than a meal, something festive for a special occasion, the perfect place to celebrate. Presto, your friend supplies the name of a restaurant that offers a completely integrated dining experience that includes a full-piece orchestra and dancing.
AGENCY CONFIDENTIAL is that friend, but instead of restaurants, our expertise is advertising agencies. And not just any agencies. Our interest is in agencies that are somehow special, agencies with a clear-cut differential, whether big, small, independent or a part of a network.
Everything is changing. The pharmaceutical industry faces unprecedented challenges. Competition and patent protection make bringing a drug to market all the more difficult and costly (an estimated $1 billion per drug from test tube to prescription bottle). And then there's the problem of raising awareness for new (or existing) products at a time of more-stringent regulations, and of growing consumer skepticism.
And if that weren't enough, all this is happening as channels and ways of reaching consumers and healthcare providers continue to proliferate, resulting in a dizzying array of marketing choices that extend well beyond traditional advertising.
And so when a pharma giant like Johnson & Johnson announces, as it did this spring, a review of its $3 billion media account with an eye toward greater use of non-traditional media, you know the landscape really is changing, and it's not just an ebb-and-flow kind of change. It is a sea change, a change from which there is no going back.
Change can be exciting, dynamic, and courageous. It can mean new ways of thinking and seeing. For the client, it also can be daunting. What is the most appropriate marketing approach? How do you maintain scientific integrity while increasing awareness for your product? What is the most effective way of informing, educating, and meeting the needs of patients, physicians, and consumers alike? Has it changed, and if so, how?
All this prompted AGENCY CONFIDENTIAL to take a look inside the toolboxes of some of the top healthcare advertising agencies to see how they were rolling with the times.
We put on our gumshoes and began pounding the pavements, up and down the avenue. We knocked on doors, interrogated heads of huge holding companies, CEOs, agency presidents, and creative directors. And at the end of the day, we returned to our office, booted up the computer, and in the glow of the blinking neon light outside our window, explored digital avenues, poured through agencies' annual reports, deconstructed Web sites, viewed creative work, trying to get a feel for what they really had to offer.
"A client might not always know what went into a successful agency experience," says Dale Taylor, cofounder, president, and CEO of AbelsonTaylor. "He or she just knows it worked, on all levels."
Well, we wanted to know what made it work. And the following report is what we found. It includes profiles and interviews with key players, plus a highly selective sampling (more of a tasting menu) of agencies that stand out from the crowd. Because, let's face it, all restaurants serve food, but only some offer a truly memorable dining experience—one that includes great service, a menu that's been carefully planned, ambience, and the desire to please. A place that's well worth the investment. A place where your needs come first.