There's a reason MM&M hasn't traditionally featured nascent agencies in this issue: Getting up and running ain't easy, and getting traction with clients is even harder. To put it less elegantly, we want to make sure there will be a year two before we set about reporting on year one.
Given the leaders involved, however, it's hard to harbor any such doubts about Elevate Healthcare. The company, which formally debuted last November, is the brainchild of industry veterans (and former Dudnyk presidents) Frank X. Powers and Lorna Weir. The longtime friends and professional peers have set their sights on occupying what they believe to be an industry blind spot: high-level strategy with fast follow-through on the execution front.
In its marketing materials, Elevate bills itself as “a multidisciplinary strategy lab” rather than an agency, and both Powers and Weir are keen to explain the difference. “Look at the number of biotech and small pharma companies trying to get products to market. They might be understaffed and need help getting it done,” Weir says, to which Powers adds, “We can help them with the thinking. A lot of these companies want smart people around but might not be ready to flip the switch on what we'd call a traditional agency relationship. I think that's a big hole in the market.”
As of early May, Elevate counted nine full-time staffers in its suburban Philly offices; that figure is likely to double by the end of 2016. The company has already attracted respected former Dudnyk chief creative officer Barry Schmader to fill that same role at Elevate. Given the therapeutic areas in which Elevate expects to work — rare disease and immuno-oncology among them — the bar in terms of scientific knowledge has been set quite high indeed. “This is an organization that is going to do things very much by design,” Weir stresses.
Elevate has already enjoyed two major successes on the new business front, claiming Kaléo and Novum Pharma as its anchor clients. The execs are quick to herald the Kaléo relationship — for work on Evzio, for emergency treatment of suspected opioid overdoses — as ideal for client and un-agency alike.
“For our first assignment to be something that we're personally and professionally invested in is so meaningful to us. [Kaléo is] driven by a purpose and a passion that is real,” Weir enthuses. Adds Powers: “The benefit to society this product brings is remarkable.”
As for how the Elevate model worked outside the walls of the shop, Weir gives it a big thumbs-up: “We were able to do the thinking quickly and then execute. We were able to make the insights actionable.” Sharing that addiction has touched his family, Schmader notes that it was an “interesting exercise” to be “personally and professionally connected” to the Evzio assignment. “This model of ours — it's not just a theoretical thing,” he says.
Powers and Weir aren't big on predictions, so they decline to share revenue and client targets for the rest of 2016 and beyond (MM&M estimates that Elevate will end the year somewhere between $4 million and $5 million in revenue). Their most fervent hope is that clients see the same thing that they see in the Elevate model.
“The goal is that people appreciate that what we're doing is a little different and understand why it's different,” Powers says. “If we remain true to the spirit and intent of this model, we're going to realize its full potential,” Weir adds.