A successful career in medical advertising usually takes an executive to the top of an agency and then on into retirement. In the case of Phil Brady, we have someone who took this career path twice, rising through field selling into the agency world to head up an agency, and then dropping out into what appeared to be retirement only to be brought back into the business to accomplish his most noteworthy work as top management at one of the business’ biggest organizations.
Brady began, as so many have in medical advertising, as a field representative. He worked for Burroughs-Wellcome (BW) in New England for eight years and then moved to the home office’s marketing department in North Carolina. Next, he dramatically redirected his career leaving the security of an Rx company for the volatile world of advertising. His product knowledge and company background were of value to the up-and-coming Rolf Werner Rosenthal agency, which had opened its doors with BW business. Thanks to Rosenthal’s energy and the talent he attracted to RWR, the agency experienced spectacular growth to which Brady was an important contributor. He was the management executive in charge of one of the agency’s signature campaigns—the “hard hat” advertising for Marion Labs’ Cardizem that propelled the brand to over $1 billion in sales.
As Rolf Rosenthal’s health failed, the agency went through an ownership change. Brady, whose strong personality, management skills, and advertising judgment had been proven at RWR, rose to become its president. In a second ownership change, Brady, however, chose not to continue with the new management and “retired,” moving back to his New England roots on Cape Cod, where he opened a liquor store. He was, of course, sitting out his 2-year non-compete agreement that came with his leaving RWR.
Well, before the 2 years were up, Tom Ferguson had approached him but prolonged negotiations ensued. Says Ferguson, “He wasn’t anxious to jump into anything. He knows who he is and…who is the seller and the sellee. He’s a good poker player.”
With the non-compete expiring, Brady finally came to terms with Ferguson and in 1992 joined an agency that was experiencing explosive growth, comparable to what he had seen at RWR. Within a year, he was president.
Medical agencies had often set up companion companies, usually for medical education or PR, but a new corporate model developed in the 1990s. Healthcare agencies restructured with satellite agencies and specialized service companies to cover the wide range of promotional services used in Rx marketing. Ferguson moved into this model through the CommonHealth corporate entity. Brady became the management executive at CommonHealth who created this network and made it function effectively.
Says, Matt Giegerich, president, CEO, CommonHealth, “Phil brought his own connectivity to people and the trust he could build with people to bear on this idea of spinning out new entities under the CommonHealth umbrella. What Phil did was make it real by finding, mentoring, and setting in motion people who had the capacity to start and run independent divisions of a company. Taking it from a business strategy into practice is a huge gap. And what Phil did was take his gut, his visceral instincts about good people, good situations, good timing, and put it into play.”
Beyond his involvement with the core Ferguson agency, Brady was instrumental in setting up Quantum (a Rx agency specialized in DTC), Xchange (for direct marketing), Noesis (a full service ad agency specializing in sales force/physician interaction), Conectics (a media buying and placement group), and Qi (a digital and Internet communications unit). CommonHealth now has 13 operating companies with 5 major divisions: Altum, Ferguson, Adient, Noesis, and Carbon. Brady’s contribution to CommonHealth and to today’s medical advertising environment is the implementation of the agency network concept.
The quality that colleagues cite most often as enabling Brady to perform so well as an organizational executive was his judgment about the business—the people at the agency, the clients’ personnel, the creative product, and the marketing situation. Brady put all the advertising skills together, but did it through the prism of his personality. He gained the client’s trust through a straight-from-the-shoulder approach that wasn’t afraid to admit error.
Bruce Leeb, who worked with him at RWR, recalls, “He was always honest. He was always forthright. He was able to say to the client, ‘Look, we made a mistake and here’s how we are going to correct it. Everything is fine and we’ve got the product on track.’ And the client believed him…because it was true.”
Phil was also a serious, intense listener who had a natural feel for the business based on what he absorbed through, what Giegerich calls, his “management by walking about.” He drew feedback from close, person-to-person contact with art directors, copywriters, production managers, junior AEs…everyone on the account. This osmosis of ideas and attitudes would result in a direction for a campaign, the creation of a new unit, or the recruitment of a new employee. Brady’s judgment came from an instinct about policy and people. CommonHealth came to trust Brady’s advice, usually delivered after everyone else had their say.
Ferguson describes a typical session with Brady, “We could go off the beaten track in meetings. After a while, Phil would just have it right up to here and he would cut right through the bull and say, ‘What in the hell are we talking about?’ Now, he hadn’t added much to the meeting, because he listens a lot. But if we were off track, Phil put us back on track. He was a perceptive guy.”
In addition to his organizational abilities, Brady managed a number of mega brands and disease marketing programs showing he could deliver agencies’ work for maximum effect. He was a force behind the widespread and enormously successful DTC campaign for Schering’s Claritin (a breakthrough in its scope and funding) and Claritin’s line extensions. Brady was also behind outstanding advertising for Ortho Biotech’s Procrit, GSK’s Avandia’s diabetes programs, Novartis’ cardiovascular products, and the previously mentioned Cardizem.
Phil retired at the end of 2004 and is now indulging his love for golf, skiing, and spending time on Cape Cod…but without tending the cash register at Phil’s Liquor Locker.