Holmes Report 28 Oct 2010 // 11:00PM GMT
The 2008 merger of WPP’s GCI Group and Cohn & Wolfe was almost conflict free—except in the healthcare arena, where both agencies had substantial operations. As a result, GCI Health was spun off and today the firm is the only member of the WPP family that specializes in healthcare public relations, with an expertise that combines traditional capabilities in pharmaceutical marketing and health education, with scientific expertise, patient advocacy and consumer activation skills, crisis communications experience, and the ability to deliver digital and social media campaigns.
The firm scored a coup at the end of 2009, persuading former MS&L healthcare practice leader (and former vice president of marketing at Planned Parenthood) Wendy Lund to come on board as chief executive. She works with a strong senior leadership team that includes president Jill Dosik, a 16-year GCI veteran; executive vice president and New York market leader Samantha Cranko (a veteran of GCI, Cooney Waters and Chamberlain); and senior VPs Valerie Lind (Atlanta market leader), Jim Wetmore (Los Angeles) and Kristin Cahill (San Francisco). They lead a team of 60 professionals—enough to make GCI one of the leading healthcare firms in the country—spread across six North American offices.
The past 12 months has seen significant growth, with new business from clients including Allergan, Robert Bosch Healthcare (a leader in the health technology arena), and the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery as well as organic growth among clients such as Medtronic, Merck, Biogen (the Tysabri account in the U.S. and globally), Boehringer Ingelheim (adding the company’s oncology franchise to existing cardiovascular and HIV work), and Endo Pharmaceuticals.
Lund likes to emphasize the firm’s “forward thinking” approach, exemplified by GCI’s work on behalf of Biogen. Neither physicians nor multiple sclerosis patients fully-appreciated the value of Tysabri, in part because of media coverage of PML, a rare but serious adverse event associated with the drug. GCI Health developed the MyMS Yoga campaign—focusing on an activity that is a popular therapy among MS sufferers—which included a partnership with yoga celebrity Baron Baptiste, partnerships with Tysabri patients and physicians, and digital engagement efforts directed at the tight-knit online MS community. The campaign generated 340 million media impressions and turned coverage of the product overwhelmingly positive.
In addition to its U.S. operations, GCI Health has an office in Toronto and European operations in the U.K. and Germany. It can also draw on the healthcare communications expertise of numerous WPP sister agencies in international markets.