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BBDO New York Opens Health Work DTC Division

Omnicom Group Inc.'s BBDO New York has started a division to serve pharmaceutical and over-the-counter clients.

Called BBDO Health Work, the New York-based division will be led by Anne Devereux, a veteran healthcare advertising executive. The shop targets makers of prescription drugs, over-the-counter remedies, herbal supplements and foods with health-related benefits.

“Pharmaceuticals is a very unique animal, and if you don't understand how people's decisions about their healthcare are different from other purchase decisions, you may not be as successful as you might think,” she said.

The new division will focus on online and offline relationship marketing. It will draw support from Omnicom and BBDO agencies Proximity, Atmosphere and the Diversified Agency Services division.

Pitches for new business have begun. But it also may look within. BBDO New York has healthcare accounts like GlaxoSmithKline's Nicorette and Nicotrol, Bayer's aspirin, Lubriderm, Rogaine, Phillips' Milk of Magnesia, Alka-Seltzer and Alka-Seltzer Plus.

“We'd like to work with those folks as well as others,” Devereux said.

Devereux will use experience from previous jobs to push her shop. Prior to Health Work, she was president and chief operating officer of Merkley Newman Harty Healthworks. This was created in 2000 with the merger of her own Consumer Healthworks and Merkley Newman Harty.

BBDO Health Work is one of the few agency divisions to launch since the economic downturn. The agency sees opportunity where others do not. Trends indicate there were only half the number of new drugs submitted in 2002 to the Food and Drug Administration for approval. This means old drugs will have to market harder, as will the few upstarts entering the field.

Direct-to-consumer advertising began in 1997. Most pharmaceutical marketers cast a wide net then. The goal was to attract as many people with diseases and ailments. Consumers have grown more aware, so companies must pay more attention to marketing.

“The trend is to get the consumer or patient who is further down the continuum and is mentally accepting,” Devereux said.

“The second trend is that probably the biggest nut that has not been cracked in pharmaceuticals is the issue of compliance and persistence,” she said. “So advertising and marketing need to focus on people who've made that decision to stick with their decision and know that they're doing more good than harm.”

Devereux estimates the pharmaceutical industry spends more than $2 billion on marketing on television and print. Direct marketing and collateral spend is hard to pin down, she said.

Health Work's staff currently is limited to Devereux and Jeremy Meilman. Joining from Hill Holliday Connors Cosmopulos in New York, where he began the healthcare division, Meilman will be designated senior account planner for strategic planning in his new job.

Meilman returned to the United States six months ago after starting South Africa's first DTC healthcare agency called Fine Healthcare.

“We'll scale up as the business requires,” Devereux said. “I don't think it'll take significantly longer for us to scale up.”

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