Agencies, Get Ready for a Dose of Clarity

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Bookmarking 100 journalist-authored profiles on the largest healthcare communications agencies of North America are results of our annual agency survey, the Agency Solar System infographic, a Vox Pop with the heads of Health, an Agency A-Z directory, and Top 100 revenue table. Plus we debut Under the Radar, a feature covering up-and-coming shops.

The risk, when compiling so much, lies in losing the anecdotes that help each firm's unique brand of creativity stand out in an otherwise-homogeneous field. But I assure you: There is plenty of charisma to accompany the clarity.

So, in honor of our biggest issue of the year, here are some of my favorite growth stories culled from the profiles…

There's San Francisco-based W2O Group, which “blew past the $100 million revenue mark in 2016,” rising to $122.7 million, according to the agency, thanks in part to the acquisition of three well-regarded specialist agencies. The network also grew in smarts, as W2O's chief marketing officer notes: “Each of the three leaders who just joined is running a big part of W2O.”

Klick Health bolstered its talent ranks last year, as well, bringing on a gaggle of heavy hitters including two C-suite execs. Agency revenue swelled nearly 31% to $200 million, Klick says, and expanded by 41% in Q1 2017. Klick's president, Lori Grant, attributes that to the agency's skill in “playing the long game” rather than focusing on quarterly growth.

In the department of tenacious growth, see…

Area 23 — the agency of “Killer Tan” fame — which saw two launch products fail in clinical trials but says it clawed its way to a nearly 60% revenue spike on the back of multiple wins.

It must have taken a page from sibling agency (and progenitor) FCB Health, which lost a certain immuno-oncology brand (Bristol-Myers Squib's Opdivo) due to a consolidation yet shrugged off the loss of that trophy account to surge by an MM&M-estimated 11%.

Then there are those agencies who, by dint of their leaders' good foresight, have organized themselves for growth…

After McCann Health North America moved five agency brands under a single banner and P&L in 2015, it touched off a trend across network competitors. Those much-admired moves seem also to have proven lucrative, given McCann's 15% growth last year (an MM&M estimate).

TBWA\WorldHealth came together in similar fashion in 2016, when Omnicom united its very well-established Corbett and LLNS legacy brands. Parting with the past probably wasn't an easy decision for leadership to make, nor has the integration been easy—“It's a three-year effort, at a minimum,” acknowledges its global president. But as the results bear out (2.5% growth, according to the agency), the move has started to unlock growth.

Speaking of which, single-digit increases are pretty good, too, especially when they whet the appetite for more…

That's the case with Pacific Communications. The agency, which is owned by Allergan but operates as a freestanding agency, reports a 5% revenue upturn but — as its CEO again makes clear — wants to compete more and has renewed its charge to diversify the roster.

And, last but not least, agencies that don't quite fit any of the above boxes are nevertheless taking actions designed to position them for growth…

Squint Metrics (neé Iomedia's healthcare practice) sold off its ticketing business and now, reporting $15 million in health revenue, builds technology for pharma clients.

And Rapp Worldwide, an ostensibly consumer agency, recently appointed an A-lister to run its health practice, a $24 million book of business.

As these stories show, agencies in our Top 100 are taking many divergent pathways to finding growth. I hope you enjoy this detailed yet digestible look at the healthcare communications sector. Either way, please let me know at Marc.Iskowitz@haymarketmedia.com. I'd love to hear from you.


Marc Iskowitz is editor in chief of MM&M.

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