In a move that reflects both the growing internationalisation of clinical trials and the drive to start building awareness of pipeline drugs at the earliest possible opportunity, US-based marketing, advertising and media giant Omnicom Group is incorporating patient recruitment specialist MMG into the global network of Omnicom’s public relations firm Ketchum.

The tie-up is not as unusual as it may seem. For one thing, the Rockville, Maryland-based MMG (Matthews Media Group) was founded in 1987 as a healthcare communications company, subsequently developing and implementing clinical trial enrolment and retention strategies for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies as well as government clients like the US National Institutes of Health.

When Omnicom acquired MMG in early 2001 through its marketing services division, Diversified Agency Services, DAS chairman and chief executive officer Thomas Harrison told PRWeek: “It is our vision to get as close to the clinical development process as we can so that we can maximize the potential of the ultimate brand”.

Under the new arrangement, MMG will operate as a distinct business unit within Ketchum. The two companies will retain their respective brand identities and office locations (like Omnicom, Ketchum is based in New York).

Ketchum said the partnership would “greatly expand the depth of services” offered to its healthcare clients, In return, MMG would gain immediate access to all the resources and services of the Ketchum global network, “an important benefit for clients in an industry that has become increasingly multinational”.

Highlighting the synergies between the two operations, Ketchum noted that MMG’s expertise lay in oncology, endocrinology/cardiology, the central nervous system and general medicine, as well as infectious and rare diseases, while Ketchum’s experience “spans virtually every therapeutic category”.

MMG’s in-depth understanding of the clinical trial business would complement Ketchum’s healthcare offering and its “ability to provide healthcare clients with communication services in the earliest phase of a product’s lifecycle”, the agency added. At the same time, Ketchum’s global team of pharmaceutical, consumer healthcare, provider relations, advocacy relations and media/new media experts would bring “additional depth to MMG’s service offerings”.

Globalisation of development
Globalisation of clinical development is another driver. Ketchum’s agency network, which spans more than 50 markets, “strengthens MMG’s global service offerings as the need for patient recruitment continues to grow outside of the US”, it pointed out. Another overlap is with Concentric Communications, an event marketing agency within Ketchum that specialises in events and exhibits at pharmaceutical trade and sales shows.

“As science and technology continue to converge in new and exciting ways, the healthcare industry faces numerous global opportunities. This combination demonstrates Ketchum’s and MMG’s commitment to help healthcare organisations maximise the opportunities and minimise the challenges ahead,” commented Ketchum senior partner Lorraine Thelian.

“Matching Ketchum’s communications expertise with MMG’s focus on clinical trials will help clients identify and communicate valuable healthcare information about diseases and potential treatments to diverse global patient, physician and advocacy audiences.”

MMG is headed by chief executive officer John Benbrook and a seven-member executive committee, which will continue to report directly to Benbrook. The Ketchum healthcare leadership team also will remain in place, working together to “achieve innovative business results for both companies’ clients”, Ketchum said.