The Top 40: Ignite Health

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Last year was another great year for Ignite Health. Revenues ballooned to $13 million, up from $9.75 million in 2004, itself a 54% increase over 2003. Co-founder and CEO Jackie Herr says the agency was founded on “redefining healthcare communications,” and combines traditional and interactive programs.

“In healthcare, communications has been traditional agency based and interactive agency based,” Herr says. “We find traditional agencies, for the most part, aren't able to be as innovative. [If you're] pure interactive, then you're not focused on an in-depth knowledge of disease states. We don't believe we fit into either of those buckets. We know disease states inside and out, and we can help guide a client in those areas. We also offer innovation that helps patients and clients stay on the cutting edge. What makes us different [is] most interactive agencies don't have in-depth knowledge.”

Ignite's core business is HIV, oncology, ophthalmology and diabetes. Last year's wins include the interactive marketing assignment for Cephalon's oncology business; an undisclosed assignment from Bristol-Myers Squibb; Bausch & Lomb Zyoptix Lasik System and Storz Instruments; Eyeonics for Crystalens accomodative intraocular lens; interactive professional and patient business on Amylin's diabetes drug Symlin; and a new assignment to Eli Lilly's attention deficit hyperactivity disorder treatment Strattera.

In helping to redefine healthcare communications, Ignite focuses on providing “forward-thinking clients with innovative ways to reach their clients.” For instance, myrecurrencerisk.com helps breast cancer patients understand risk recurrence, and it also empowers them by providing information they need to ask questions and make informed treatment decisions.

 “We're building properties and innovative Web site properties that are resources for patient education, which helps make them a better team with their healthcare provider,” Herr says. “In terms of changing the focus of healthcare communications, the [common] thread is providing information for patients and caregivers when, where, and how they want to see it.”

Though staff has more than doubled in the last two years (from 28 in 2003 to nearly 70 now), hiring talent continues to be an issue.

“The biggest has challenge has to be finding that next group of smart, talented people who say healthcare in general is a great business to be in to do good things for patients living with diseases,” Herr says. “Where do you find people who can innovate, have the passion, and can continue furthering this business into the next 20 years?”

DTC ads have been used as ammunition against the industry. “DTC is viewed as a bad thing because everyone associates it with the big TV campaigns,” Herr says. “We define and view DTC very differently. We see it almost as direct community. It's not a bad thing as long as you're defining appropriate audiences and providing information to those audiences.”

“Direct to community is measurable,” she continues. “We measure people going to a site, which helps us know if we're doing the right thing. If you're part of the community you're more willing to share. Sophisticated metrics can show clients exactly what's happening—is what we're doing having an impact in the community? We're fortunate to be partnered with clients who want to understand what their community wants and try to fulfill on that promise.”

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