Ignite, part of inVentiv Health, accomplished a lot of great work in 2008. And, given the turbulence in the overall market, co-founder and CEO Jackie Herr is “very pleased” revenue was up about 5% over 2007.
“We're helping clients develop the right kinds of solutions, and we feel that regardless of if we're flat or up, it's going to be another solid year this year because of the work we did last year,” says Herr.
There were many digital highlights last year, including the launch of oncology site Gemzar.com for long-time client Eli Lilly. The agency has since won additional work from Lilly in oncology. It was also awarded franchise level work on Lillydiabetes.com last year (in addition to brand sites previously won).
A total of nine new clients signed on, including Genentech (Avastin); Bayer (Yaz); Centocor (corporate); Somaxon (Silenor); and Ventus Medical (sleep apnea device). Franchise work was awarded from four other new clients: Veracyte (diagnostics); Crescendo Bioscience (diagnostics); Mentor (aesthetics); and Celgene (oncology franchise plus two products). No business was lost, but Novartis was resigned at the end of 2008.
A major social networking site, juvenation.org, was launched for new client Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Ross Fetterolf, VP digital strategy, says clients are looking at social media in a “systematic way,” and most are showing interest from an educational standpoint. He thinks many in the industry view the FDA warning regarding paid search as the tip of the iceberg. A lot of Ignite's clients are asking for help staying ahead of the curve and even in creating policies and guidelines.
About five employees were let go last year, bringing headcount down to about 92. Herr explains that the cuts were made due to changes in the agency business rather than slowing of work. She's currently looking to hire “good solid business thinkers” for about four positions. “We're focusing on the skill sets clients are asking for,” she says. “Senior staff must be more generalists now. They have to give direction, participate and consult with clients. They must be able to talk any kind of channel in terms of delivering.”
Fetterolf explains that digital is getting more complex and at the same time many clients are consolidating their workforces. He says client brand managers are often expected to have e-marketing expertise so the agency must have highly skilled talent that can educate, provide thought leadership and execute.
The New York office, which opened last year, is functioning as an account service outpost. Paul Balagot, VP account director will head up the office, which Herr says will grow as needed with clients. Matt Brown, who joined as COO in January 2009, says clients that have appreciated and benefited from Ignite's history of being on the leading edge of digital trends are now asking the agency to assume broader responsibilities.
“Client trust is at the heart of what's driving our business,” Herr adds. “There's been quite a bit of new business pitch activity. In the first half of year, there's been more pitch activity than we've had in our history. And we're being invited to participate at a much higher level with clients.”