Eveo may only have grown its revenue by $1 million during 2015, but the agency did enjoy growth of a different — and equally welcome — sort. The agency advanced in its quest to evolve from digital specialist to AOR mainstay.
“It was harder than expected,” CEO Olivier Zitoun concedes. “We had to significantly expand our strategy and engagement group so that it is truly multichannel.” That meant onboarding some serious brainpower, including Haifa Barbari, SVP, director of engagement; Jason Kirton, engagement planner; Chris Olsen, VP, strategy and analytics; and John Adelhelm, SVP, MD of its New York office.
Those additions helped Eveo win seven new assignments. Among them: the agency's first global AOR assignment, for rare-disease specialist PTC Therapeutics on a medication for cystic fibrosis and another for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Sobi, also a rare-disease company, hired Eveo for a drug that treats HT-1, a severe genetic disorder that prevents the body from breaking down a specific amino acid.
To that end, Eveo hosted the Rare Marketing Summit in Boston in May, an event Zitoun claimed was the first conference that specifically focused on the ins and outs of rare-disease work. “We wanted to invite marketers small and large, pharma and biotech, together for one day to share ideas and best practices. It's not just about selling stuff, but opportunities to learn,” he explains.
Revenue in 2015 came in at $17 million, up from $16 million in 2014; headcount sat at 85. Other client wins included Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Lipocine, Versartis, Genzyme, and Avanir Pharmaceuticals.
The year wasn't without its headaches. “We're still facing the challenge of competing with large networks — especially for big pharma accounts — but less so for smaller companies and biotech. That's been going on since agency consolidation began intensifying back in 2010,” Zitoun says. “We have clients like Genentech, with whom we've been working for about 12 years now. But many companies still think of Eveo as simply a digital agency, so we've had to prove that we can take on and do much more than we used to.”
Zitoun also references industrywide concerns that affect Eveo. “[Marketers are] still struggling to strike a balance between healthcare-provider communication and patient communication,” he explains. With physical access to physicians becoming more and more limited, organizations like Eveo “need to find new and innovative ways to engage in a personalized manner. We need to think of new ideas about how agencies and marketers can complement the work of reps.”
The highlight of Zitoun's year, however, was pro bono work on behalf of Family Reach, a nonprofit that helps families struggling with cancer pay their bills, for which Eveo launched the Give app last summer. “The app has been a great success,” he says, noting that it represents a relevant way to engage consumers in conversations about health and activism.
Family Reach's efforts to help the family of Lucas “Bear” Cervone, a 5-year-old with leukemia whose request for birthday cards went viral, further brought home that power. “It helped us realize how much we have to help, beyond what we do with our clients,” Zitoun says.