Once Bob Leverte settled on medical advertising as a career, his talent and energy drove his career to one success after another, including founding an in-house advertising agency, becoming vice-president sales/marketing for a major drug firm, partnering in a healthcare ad agency, and founding and building his own agency.
Bob entered the pharmaceutical industry as a sales representative for Schering Laboratories and later advanced to field management positions at Pfizer, in its Leeming Division. His early years began at Robert A. Becker Agency, where he served as a market research analyst and then as an account executive on the Eli Lilly antibiotic business. He moved to ER Squibb as advertising manager, growing into Director of Advertising and then to Founder and President of ERS Advertising, the in-house advertising agency for ER Squibb (now Bristol Myers Squibb).
At ERS, Bob was involved in a paradigm shift in the industry-media purchasing based on audience mapping, direct advertising based on prescription data and demographics, call reporting to targeted prescribers, and fee-based agencies focused on creative campaigns to targeted stake holders. As impressive as this evolution was, the larger challenge Bob met was getting sales force-minded ER Squibb to respect creativity in marketing as a key driver to sales force effectiveness. ERS grew to more than 40 employees under Bob’s leadership and ran as an independent marketing partner at ER Squibb. Many future industry leaders were involved in this ERS journey with Bob including Thomas Forchetta, Hugh Goldthorpe, Alan Gross, Mike Ingram, Larry Starr, Jane Townsend, and DePaul Trunk.
While Bob was President of ERS Advertising, the American Medical Association review board approved all advertising copy and concepts for “appropriateness and accuracy,” much like the FDA does today. The review process often was in conflict with internally approved materials and FDA guidelines. Bob was instrumental in working with the AMA to develop a practical advertising review system, based on self-policing and trust, so that oversight and approval times were substantially reduced. Bob worked in a similar way with Peter Rheinstein and the FDA Advertising Review Committee in refining advertising copy requirements for direct-to-consumer advertising.
Bob moved on to join Winthrop Laboratories as Vice President of Marketing and Sales responsible for market planning, advertising, and sales for the pharmaceutical, veterinary, and consumer divisions. During his tenure, Winthrop successfully repositioned Bayer baby aspirin for the prevention of heart attack and stroke, introduced Danocrine for endometriosis, and positioned Talwin for equine colic.
With business in hand obtained from Astra Pharmaceuticals and former colleague John Pfieffer, Bob joined John Ruvane to co-found Ruvane-Leverte. In addition to business from Astra and Organon, the agency added and serviced Arbrook Wound Care from Johnson & Johnson as well as brands from Surgicos, Winthrop Veterinary, and Squibb Novo. Several of these clients were international. Bob was instrumental in reintroducing and repositioning the Astra line of local anesthetics to gain market share, recognition, and brand growth in products developed and produced outside the United States and transitioning them to the American market.
After becoming Chairman and CEO of the Bozell Jacobs Medical Group, Bob completed the acquisition of Ruvane-Leverte and Grey Advertising, creating one of the first medical and consumer health advertising agencies with worldwide reach. This feat also marked the early launch of the direct-to-patient movement.
As Founder and CEO of The Leverte Companies, Bob created an integrated company with a team of 50 professionals in Westport, Connecticut. He founded the company with John Witt, creative director from Robert A. Becker Agency, and built it to serve the promotional and educational needs of an extensive client list, including AdvanStar, Allergan, Astra Pharmaceuticals, Astra Dental, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Cooper Surgical, Endo, Novartis Nutrition, Novo Nordisk, Organon, Pfizer, and Ranbaxy. The Leverte Companies were key drivers for the pain business at AstraZeneca as well as the women’s health business for Organon. Moreover, The Leverte Companies helped establish Endo as a major drug company, brought “pen” technology to the diabetes market with Novo Nordisk, and created new and innovative managed care pull-through techniques for the major brands at Bayer. In 2002, HealthSTAR acquired The Leverte Companies.
Bob was President of the Pharmaceutical Advertising Council (PAC, now the Healthcare Marketing and Advertising Association) in 1976 and introduced education and industry luminaries as part of the monthly meetings and coordinated important alliances with Dartmouth College. Under his presidency, the PAC membership more than doubled. Bob was an early supporter of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, working with Jack Angel, Harry Sweeney, John Swift, among other noted individuals.
After a long, successful career, Bob Leverte is deserving of induction into the Medical advertising Hall of Fame.