Quiet. Brilliant. Forward thinking. Alan Gross has long been known as a person who shunned the limelight even as he pushed others into it. He created a company that continually broke new ground – launching whole new drug categories, creating new marketing modalities, and guiding the careers of countless individuals who lead our industry today.
Alan Gross grew up in Philadelphia. He opted to pursue scientific courses in his education. In 1961, after receiving a BA in Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania, he further forged his scientific credentials with a graduate degree in Microbiology/Biochemistry at Western Reserve Medical School.
Despite this formidable education, Alan’s initial jobs were as a truck driver and mechanic, before joining ER Squibb and Sons as a sales representative in 1967. In 1970, he moved into the advertising world by becoming an advertising manager with Squibb. His creative abilities lead to a position as creative director with Squibb’s in-house agency. He left Squibb in 1974 for a position with Lavey, Wolff & Swift, and then returned as Director of Advertising before joining Maxon Davis as EVP, account services in 1977.
In 1978, Alan formed his own agency, Alan Gross Communications. Together with Jane Townsend, who would be his partner in love and life for more than three decades to follow, he worked out of his apartment to build his agency. With the addition of Ronnie Hoffman and David Frank, the agency became Gross Townsend Frank Hoffman, and opened offices on Union Square.
Driven by new, multi-channel communications marketing capabilities, and top level creative and strategic thinking, the agency grew steadily, earning a reputation for a solid product and a work environment that fostered personal growth and development. In late 1986, the agency was sold to Grey Advertising, with Alan and Jane guiding its continuing growth until 1993 when they retired.
Alan Gross was always ahead of the times in terms of communications and was one of the leaders in the development of such concepts as integrated, multi-channel marketing, healthcare PR, managed care services, TV advertising, DTC, and CRM. Early direct-to-consumer work included the New Year’s Quitters ad for Nicoderm, the Know Your Number, campaign for Mevacor, and the ground-breaking National Cancer Survivors’ Day. One of his major contributions to pharma marketing was the formation of Phase V Communications, through which the agency pioneered computer-driven CRM marketing with The Cholesterol Connection, and media such as Seasons Magazine for Premarin – one of the first CRM loyalty programs.Under Alan’s guidance, Phase V was a groundbreaker in the field of medical education.
Alan’s scientific passion was the driving force behind many of the agency’s successes. His “in-house research” which showed that Nuprin dissolved faster than Advil was the foundation of its successful promotion, and his insights into the role of statins anchored the successful work done for Mevacor.
With GTHF, Alan grew a global network earlier and more substantially than many other agencies. The agency handled the global launch of Merck’s Mevacor, the first statin drug, and the global launch of Roche Diagnostics’ Amplicor DNA/PCR test. Under his quiet, careful guidance, the agency grew steadily and impressively for more than two decades.
The above accomplishments are impressive. Alan led the way in developing new ways of thinking about what marketing could do and integrating disparate components into a single communications plan. However, he and Jane always insisted that their greatest accomplishment was finding and developing scores of individuals to do their best, discover their talents, and achieve their own success. He is quick to give credit for GTFH’s successes to others. He showed people the way by example. He always encouraged people to stretch, think big, and try new concepts. The people who worked with him are a fiercely devoted and loyal group, a solid testimonial to his qualities as a leader.
Unlike many people who retire from a successful career, for Alan and Jane this was the beginning of a new phase of his life contributing to their new home in Bonaire. Their work included efforts for the local Red Cross, ecological projects, an island disaster plan, and an after-school program for teens. In appreciation of their many efforts, Alan & Jane were made Knights of the Order of Nassau-Orange by the Queen of the Netherlands.
As friends and colleagues will attest, Alan’s legacy of accomplishments is outstanding.