DraftFCB Enters Area 23: New Agency Launched

February 13, 2008
Pharmaceutical Executive
Volume 0, Issue 0

Focused on brand integration, Area 23 launched last week with a handful of major pharma companies and a ton of ideas. The key goal--create better campaigns through stronger branding.

Draftfcb last week announced the launch of Area 23, a new stand-alone full-service agency that will focus on integrated brand building in the pharma space.

The agency (whose name is a cheeky amalgam of Area 51, the notorious top-secret Air Force installation in Nevada, and the agency's New York street number) was established to help counteract some of the undesirable effects of the growth Draftfcb has undergone as it has absorbed agencies and expanded its reach. The company has launched more than 50 brands and has more than 9,000 worldwide employees.

"As you get bigger you start to lose a little of who you are, and you need to control that," Area 23 managing director Mike Guarino said. "You also start to get conflicted out of certain pieces and categories."

The new agency brings along a handful of Draftfcb clients, including GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, and Pfizer. More recently, Area 23 added Boehringer Ingelheim as a client.

In an interview with Pharm Exec on Tuesday, Guarino was tight-lipped as to what campaigns are currently in development and if there will be any changes to existing campaigns.

Guarino did admit that there was some apprehension about launching Area 23. "People need to understand that their livelihood isn't being put at risk?and that is one of the things that made this work so well," he said. "It wasn't a spur of the moment decision. It was something that we had planned, so there was some excitement around it."

Building BrandsArea 23's approach will be to market each drug as an integrated brand. Instead of treating broadcast, print, and Web separately, the creative teams will focus on full-lifecycle brand-building encompassing all media. The hope is that by gaining early buy-in between agency and client, the relationships will last beyond the product launch.

"Agencies aren't in the best place," Guarino said. "The number of drugs in the pipeline are about half of what they were 10 years ago. With FDA scrutiny and the cost of medications rising, we need to be creative with how we reach our customers."

Risk AverseGuarino told Pharm Exec that even in this regulatory environment, good creative should make a consumer's or a doctor's heart pound faster, and that both the client and the agency should have the courage to engage in more interesting work.

But with the recent attacks on DTC advertising, is there a danger to being different or controversial?

"We embody the philosophy that you have to be risk averse," Guarino said. "You can be interesting and exciting without being risky. That's the importance of understanding the science and the environment that you are working in. If you understand the boundaries, you are able to do something that is unique without being on the edge of risk."