According to president Kirsten Kantak, 2015 was a year of renewal at Biolumina, most notably on the personnel front. While it maintained a headcount of about 80 full-time staffers, the downtown New York City–based agency brought in a number of heavy-hitters — like Kantak herself, who took over as president last July following a long tenure at Biolumina sibling agency Harrison and Star. Others included SVP and creative strategist Brenda Aske; SVP, group account supervisors Alexander Levine and Tanya Weschke; and VP-level copy execs Kate Dziedzic Gaind and Lauren Anton. The agency also promoted agency veteran Jenna Goscienski, previously senior director of project management, to VP and director of operational excellence.
One senses that Kantak takes as much pride mentoring Biolumina's people and fostering its culture as she does in anything involving clients or bigger-picture industry affairs. Indeed, she describes the Biolumina workplace as one that prioritizes the free flow of ideas, with all egos checked at the door.
“We've adapted this idea of ‘happy conflict,' which is a belief that the best ideas and best work come from healthy intellectual and productive debate,” she explains. “We need to make sure we're creating a culture in which everyone feels free to challenge everyone else's thinking. We want to create a culture to feel all those things and to take all those risks. We want to build something really great together.” This mentality shapes how Biolumina functions as an agency.
It's difficult to get a bead on whether Biolumina had a successful year — the company declines to reveal anything about revenue, brands, or specific assignments, only allowing that its client roster includes Genentech, AbbVie, Novartis Oncology, Array BioPharma (inset), and Clovis Oncology (the latter two pieces of business were won in 2015). Instead, Kantak is keen to discuss the agency's operating philosophy. When working with new clients or brands, the agency begins with insight learning and attempts to discover what motivates target audiences, then devises the creative ideas that fuel the desired goals and behaviors. The common theme in recent years, not surprisingly, has been building stronger brand relationships.
“Customers, whether physicians or patients, are looking for a real relationship with the brand,” Kantak explains. “In a competitive environment, to be able to do more than just produce a product, you have to provide information and communications. You have to provide a full relationship.” For just about every client, this means an enhanced digital presence; around 40% of Biolumina's work is now digital in nature.
In building connected brand experiences, Kantak notes that marketers need to take into account more than just the pre-launch setting. “You have to think about the first experience with the brand, as well as the second, third, and fourth experiences,” she explains. “You have to get the patient interested in telling the story and building that relationship.”
Look for Biolumina to push forward within the specialty space in 2016. “There
are a lot more specialty brands being developed,” says Kantak. “Because we have such deep experience in oncology, it provides a great model for specialty marketing and communications.”