Medical Marketing & Media's look at Philly area healthcare marketing & communications agencies


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(This article originally appeared on Philly Tech News Friday August 3. Several of the firms mentioned are in New Jersey. A table that accompanied the article can be found in the original post. Please visit Philly Tech News to view it.)

Medical Marketing & Media Magazine published its “100 Agencies” issue in July, providing profiles of what it deems to be the top 100 healthcare marketing & communications agencies.

The Philadelphia region, extending up through New Jersey to New York City, continues to have a major concentration of these firms, reflecting the presence of so many pharma and medical device companies and healthcare institutions in the region. I would argue that the healthcare business largely spurred the creation and growth of the interactive design community in Philadelphia, though it has since branched out.

I examined the information MM&M; collected on the 17 or so firms based in the Philly area that were included among its Top 100. Since these are mostly privately owned firms (or in just a few cases agencies within publicly held firms), they don’t really have to disclose anything they don’t want to so the data is understandably spotty.

Overall , it looks like most firms experienced flat results or moderate growth in 2011. The FDA approval process, patent expirations, agency consolidations, and shifts in spending allocations were often cited as factors inhibiting growth. Firms that had been focused on supporting “detailing” salesforces continue to face adjustments as industry spending shifts away from that area. Firms that started out as “totally digital” are still trying to incorporate some non-digital capabilities, while other more traditional agencies are bulking up on digital skills.

Perhaps the two largest firms based in the area, and also two of the strongest digital agencies, Digitas Health (Philadelphia) and Rosetta (Hamilton, NJ), both experienced flat or down years. Digitas went through about a 10% reduction in staff and a change in management structure after the departure of co-founder David Kramer. Rosetta, which like Digitas is owned by Publicis, also experienced “relatively flat revenue in healthcare in 2011 vs. 2010”, Shannon Hartley, managing director of Rosetta’s healthcare practice told MM&M.; Publicis acquired Rosetta in June 2011 for $575 million. Publicis reported first half growth 2012 for North America of 2.6%, which it attributed in part to “the sluggishness in the healthcare sector”.

Late last year, Publicis reorganized its healthcare properties, placing Digitas Health and Philly-based Razorfish Health under its New York-based Publicis Healthcare Communications Group (PHCG). Also under the PHCG umbrella are Yardley-based Publicis Touchpoint Solutions, Publicis Healthware International and Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Innovations, which since been rechristened as Saatchi & Saatchi Science. Rosetta, however, continues to report separately in Publicis’ corporate structure, although there are apparently some synergistic initiatives with Rosetta working with other Publicis units. Razorfish Health, spun off from Razorfish in 2010, didn’t give too much information about its 2011 results, except to note it was a good year for new business highlighted by the addition of the Rite Aid account. Razorfish Health also moved into new headquarters in the Wanamaker Building.

The healthcare marketing landscape might also be shaken up if there is any foundation to the story floated by FT (usually a reliable source) as I was finishing writing this that Publicis may be planning a $6 billion plus bid for New York-based Interpublic Group. Though not a major presence in the Philadelphia area, Interpublic’s healthcare assets are considerable and include Draftfcb Healthcare, Area 23 and various units operating under the McCann name.

Another significant player on the Philly healthcare agency scene, although not on the scale of Publicis, is Huntsworth Health, a unit of UK-based Huntsworth PLC. Huntsworth Health agencies in the area include ApotheCom of Yardley, Nitrogen (formerly Dorland, the oldest agency in the business), evoke interaction, a New York-based digitally oriented agency with a Philly office, Curatio, an Exton-based continuing medical education specialist, and Tonic Life Communications, a healthcare PR specialist with headquarters in London and Philadelphia.

Some significants firms based elsewhere with Philly offices include Columbus, Ohio-based Blue Diesel, San Francisco-based Eveo, and Dallas-based imc2 health and wellness, although imc2 reduced staff here at the beginning of the year.

Hamilton, NJ-based H4B Catapult, a Havas shop, said it experienced “double digit growth” in 2011, recovering from loss of its biggest account, Lovenox, due to patent expiration. It reported having about 160 employees, and opened a new Boston office. Philly-based Vox Medica acquired a boutique agency and with it brought in some new equity partners, and HLG Health Communications formally changed its name from the Hal Lewis Group.

Cadient Group said its business was up 15% in 2011, and the firm focused on developing new mobile, social and analytics tools. Cadient said it was also considering making acquisitions. Roska Health Advertising said its business was up 5 to 10%, and Dudnyk, which has had a period of rapid growth, said it was up 12% for the year. DiD of Fort Washington seems to have bounced back from a major hit it took due to the production problems of client McNeil Labs. Princeton-based Compass Healthcare Marketing is seeing gains from its emphasis on orphan drugs, and CDM Princeton said it saw 15% growth for the year.

Renavatio Healthcare Communications of Newton is a promising shop focusing on specialty brands, which has grown to 35 full time staffers in little more than three years since its founding.

There are some other area agencies worth noting not on MM&M;’s top 100 list. Wilmington-based Aloysius Butler & Clark is a mid-sized agency with a particular strength in representing healthcare systems. Mangos of Malvern has a very strong list of local clients, including several area health systems. Tonic Design of Newtown (no connection to Huntsworth’s Tonic Life Communications) may have signaled an intent to become a bigger healthcare player by announcing that former Cadient Group founding partner and Digitas Health Managing Director James Burke joined the firm at the beginning of August as Managing Director. Star Group Communications, Inc. of Vorhees, NJ is another young agency. There is another large cluster of agencies in the Parsippany/Morristown/Bedminister area further up in New Jersey.

One complaint I had a year or two ago covering this subject has lessened. Some firms were so anxious to highlight their digital capabilities that their overly souped up websites were almost impossible to navigate or locate needed information.

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