If ever an agency had a year that redefined “wow,” then for Intouch Solutions, 2009 was surely it. Somehow, the Overland Park, KS-based shop was able to turn one of the most challenging years healthcare marketing has ever faced into a goldmine.
Just look at the numbers: 2009 revenues exploded by a stupendous 61% to $22.4 million, while Intouch hired 62 additional employees, taking the headcount up to 162. “People are starting to hear about us and the work we do,” says CEO Faruk Capan. He is surely correct.
Capan describes 11-year-old Intouch as being “based on digital DNA, but pretty much full service.” He is quick to point out its independence status. “We don't have to report to anybody,” he says.
Intouch added 14 new accounts in 2009, making a total of 62 brands. Clients include Abbott Labs, for whom it became a preferred interactive supplier, and numerous brands for each of Allergan (including Botox), Eisai and Roche. The agency also followed up on the success of its MM&M Award-winning GoInsulin.com website with further interactive projects for Sanofi-Aventis in the diabetes category, namely the GoInsulin YouTube channel and the GoMeals iPhone app.
Capan sees more and more clients embracing digital, Web 2.0 and even social media. He notes a lot of interest in what he calls “the shiny objects”—iPhones, Androids and other smart mobile devices. “Clients are always talking about it,” he says, “but now one or two of them are doing something. You're going to see a lot more apps from ourselves and our clients, for both consumers and HCPs.”
Like many others in the space, Capan doesn't necessarily think the long-awaited FDA guidelines will send every pharma company leaping into the social media pool. “The ones that are already doing [social media] will continue to do it, and the ones that aren't doing it might dip a toe into the water,” he says. “But I don't think it's going to really change much.”
However, he already sees some “lightening up” on the client side. “Companies like Sanofi and one or two others are trying to change their models—they are realizing that you can't approve every ‘tweet,' and that's a huge win for us.”
Capan reports that 2010 has started strong for Intouch, which is both pitching new clients and growing business from existing ones.
He believes the industry will continue to be challenged by a number of forces, and earmarks the upcoming slew of patent expirations as a particular problem. He also notes that many clients are reshuffling and reorganizing, but is uncertain how this will pan out. “Will marketing people be more powerful or less powerful?” he asks. “And will central marketing people make the decisions? Those are all concerns… but so far so good.”
Capan says he plans to add an East Coast location to the Chicago office and Kansas base, and expects to continue staffing up across the firm. No easy feat in Kansas, surely? “So far we have not had a problem with hiring,” he insists. “People make fun of Dorothy and Kansas, but it's not that bad.”