Phase Six: Regain Confidence - Pharmaceutical Executive


Phase Six: Regain Confidence
Not since 1997 has the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association given its Woman of the Year distinction to someone from the agency world. A former nurse, researcher and Big Pharma exec, Lynn O'Connor Vos, CEO of Grey Healthcare Group and this year's honoree, is on a mission.

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"The advertising business requires intensive management, reinvention and attention to what going on out there," says Vos. "When Jane joined, we were concerned with strengthening the agency, establishing the esprit de corps for the advertising business, and working toward excelling at creative and client service. Jane is brash, frank, open, and honest—the characteristics I love in people. She helped us move that agency piece forward."

GHG structured itself for growth. It pioneered the "single P&L"—individual companies within GHG benefit when the company as a whole does well. In traditional communications holding companies, individual units compete with each other, and it can be difficult to coordinate cross disciplinary programs. The single P&L is designed to combat that. As globalization emerged as an urgent issue, GHG convinced its parent company that it was important to put US and European (and more recently, Asian) efforts under the same leadership.

The company has tripled in size since 1991, and an unusually large portion of the increase has come in the form of organic growth rather than acquisitions. In the past two years alone, GHG has acquired or launched more than a dozen new companies, including:

  • Summit Grey, which offers on- and off-line med ed programs and interactive solutions
  • Insight Medical Communications, and CME Scholar, full-service med ed divisions
  • s&kGrey, one of Germany's top oncology med ed companies
  • DarwinGrey, a UK-based oncology communications company
  • Hurd Studios, a scientific multimedia firm with animation, video production, and marketing capabilities
  • BrandEdge, a consulting and portfolio management company
  • Avenue Grey, a DTP/DTC customer relationship marketing agency supported by behavioral scientists and in-depth consumer research
  • Nova Grey, with consumer expertise and close ties with Grey Worldwide
  • GHG Japan and Sorento Grey Healthcare India, which added advertising and med ed expertise to Asia

A Warning Isn't Enough It's perhaps a tribute to Vos and GHG that when FDA's self-proclaimed watchdog, David Graham released his list of drugs he wanted to see off the market, four of the five—all but Roche's Accutane (isotretinoin)—were GHG clients. Products like these, which arouse controversy and generate large volumes of contradictory information, are particularly sensitive to market—and they cut to the heart of the issue of trust.

There are two parts to rebuilding trust, as Vos sees it. First, the physician has to be brought back into the equation. "When we were first doing consumer advertising," Vos says, "we would agonize over one thing: How are we going to explain what's going on to doctors? We need to tell them that patients will see this, and here's what the storyboard looks like, and what to do if you have questions. That's eroded over the years."

But today, when patients show up at the physicians' offices armed with Internet pages on their conditions, and sometimes strong opinions on how they should be treated, a simple warning isn't enough. There is a real need for material that helps physicians do their jobs. "We need to arm them with better understanding of the consumer, of what's going on in patients' minds so they can practice better medicine," says Vos.


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