During the past decade Wunderman Health made a name for itself as one of the few agencies that truly “gets” data and analytics. So it comes as a bit of a surprise when, near the start of her annual chat with MM&M, CEO Becky Chidester notes that many of her agency's clients regard it as “the content agency.” Say what?
“I don't think it's a secret that companies want content that can live on digital channels. It's something every client is talking about on some level,” Chidester explains. “Companies have lots of content from their agency relationships, but what they don't have is the knowledge to make it work in digital channels. They don't have the data and they don't know how to tailor it around discrete personas. That's what we can do. We can be the machine behind the content.”
Left unsaid is that Wunderman Health's people are fine content creators, and that it prides itself on its ability to accommodate clients wherever they happen to find themselves on the open-to-change/risk-averse continuum.
“I break them down into two rough groups,” Chidester says. “The first is what I'd call ‘digital adopters.' These are companies in pharma and health insurance that understand the importance of content and digital channels but need a partner to drive change. The second are the ‘digital accelerators,' who have internal capabilities and senior-level support. That translates into greater emphasis around content and mobile and the use of data and metrics to drive business.”
Wunderman Health scored big with both types of clients in 2015. It grew revenue by 20%, from $100 million to an MM&M-estimated $120 million, and grew headcount from 330 to around 350. It snapped up Brussels-based full-service shop ABS Creative and debuted an in-house strategy consulting practice, which already counts insurance heavy-hitters like Aetna, BlueCross BlueShield Plans, and Evolent Health as clients. Other client additions included Boehringer Ingelheim and Miracle-Ear. The agency also expanded its relationship with longtime client GlaxoSmithKline, a company that Chidester places firmly in her defined category of being a “digital accelerator.”
But it is the work with Miracle-Ear that may best exemplify Wunderman Health's evolution over the past few years. “There's a lot of inertia and barriers around hearing aids,” Chidester says. “We were selected because we've been able to help bring out the authenticity and inspiration in brands from all sorts of categories.”
Chidester expects more such clients to be added to the roster during what's left of 2016, with the hope that Wunderman Health will “become more expert around the wellness and health behaviors that have a real impact on outcomes.” She hopes to further hone the agency's personalization capabilities — no small ambition, given its extensive experience in this sphere — and to sell the few remaining holdouts on the impact that advanced data and analytics can have on the bottom line.
In short, Chidester wants to see Wunderman Health do it all. “We have communications and content experience. We have CRM experience and the analytics and data capabilities. We have the tech platforms that enable a real commitment to personalized marketing,” Chidester says. “Very few agencies can claim that they have all three of those things. When you bring them together, that's where you can achieve the true transformation.”