Dynamic. A risk taker with distinctive style. These are words you hear when talking about Joe Torre. During the 40 years he worked in the healthcare and medical advertising industry, his energy, enthusiasm, and drive were his trademark. His successful record with new product introductions won his agency the title, “The Launch Agency,” for its work on countless blockbuster and specialty products.
Joe was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, just one block from Frank Sinatra. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy and an MBA in Marketing from St. John’s University. His business history began dispensing medicine, working for two years as a Registered Pharmacist in both the retail and hospital sectors. He joined Roche in 1970 where starting as a sales representative, then moving to marketing research as an analyst, senior analyst, and later manager of the marketing research department. He made the leap into medical and pharmaceutical advertising in 1977, joining Healthmark Communications as an Account Supervisor, managing brands for Searle, Procter & Gamble and Meyer Laboratories/Glaxo.
In 1979, Joe was a co-founder of Salthouse Torre Ferrante, which became the Torre Lazur Healthcare Group. For more than 25 years, Joe steered Torre Lazur through a maze of obstacles that would have doomed those less determined. In the early years of the agency, Torre won, and later lost, Zantac, one of pharma’s original “blockbuster” drugs. Faced with losing the biggest account at the agency, Joe capitalized on Torre Lazur’s expertise in the category, and landed SmithKline Beecham’s rival brand Tagamet. That single business win began a thriving partnership between SmithKline (now GlaxoSmithKline) and Torre Lazur, launching breakthrough brands such as Habitrol, Havrix, Paxil, and Kytril.
Under Joe’s leadership, the agency grew dramatically. In 1996, seeing that the future of medical advertising was global, he sold the agency to McCann-Worldgroup, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG), and the world’s largest multinational communications company. As part of the McCann network, Torre Lazur was one of the first companies to establish full-service healthcare communications companies in major markets around the world, setting the standard for launching new brands. As CEO of TLHG, Joe managed the entire McCann global healthcare network through 2005 and was later tapped to develop and grow the McCann healthcare advertising corridor for IPG.
Joe created an enduring strategy for positioning Torre Lazur as “The Launch Agency” by executing a string of successful launches for blockbuster and specialty brands in almost every therapeutic category for the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, and Sanofi Aventis. Under Joe’s tenure as CEO, Torre Lazur’s reputation for outstanding launches and breakthrough creativity earned the agency a record eight nominations and four wins for Med Ad News Agency of the Year, setting the standard for excellence in the industry.
Creativity and the ability to grow the bottom line helped to propel Joe Torre and the Torre Lazur Healthcare Group, to the top. But Joe is the first to proclaim that people are everything, saying “give people the freedom to work and grow in a relaxed, fun and collaborative environment -and they will thrive and give you a superior product.”
One of the qualities that made Joe unique is that when faced with a setback he managed to turn it into something positive. His biggest personal and professional challenge came in June of 1991, when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Those who know and worked with him during those difficult times will tell you he was a profile of courage and inspiration, continuing to work both at the office and even from his hospital bed. He beat the disease into remission after only seven months of treatment.
During his hospital stay for leukemia, Joe became aware of the importance of funding for supporting cancer patients and medical research. In 1992, less than a year after his leukemia diagnosis, he began planning what would become the Annual Pharmaceutical Industry Fight against Leukemia Golf Outing. He brought together colleagues from Torre Lazur to help organize the event, and got financial support from industry giants SmithKline Beecham and Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis), with all donations going directly to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Over the years, this event not only raised tens of thousands of dollars, but helped bring new hope to finding a cure or leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood-related disorders.
Whether in business or working to help others, Joe Torre has forged a remarkable record.