Closerlook | 2018

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For Closerlook, 2017 was a year of introspection. With an eye on the ever-evolving role of agency partners, CEO Dave Ormesher and president Jon Sawyer packed their bags for a series of client meetings Ormesher describes as “kind of a road show.” By the time they returned home, they had sat down with 13 different people at eight client companies — and generated ideas that may inform Closerlook's path forward.

In the wake of these conversations, Closerlook set about reengineering its internal processes to reflect changes in agency responsibilities, eliminating its silos and replacing them with cross-functional groups. The agency's data and analytics teams were merged into a marketing intelligence unit with a single leader. It opened its second office, in New York City, and staffed it with several top creative people.

Ormesher reports Closerlook's staff has embraced the changes because “they knew they needed to happen.” A new CTO, former Kaptivating exec Steve Tulk, was imported to help lead the charge.

The changes aren't reflected in Closerlook's recent results. MM&M estimates revenue fell from $24 million in 2016 to $20 million in 2017 — and that's after a slide from an estimated $27 million in 2015. The agency itself reports staff size declined sharply, from 120 people at the end of 2016 to 80 at the end of 2017.

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Ormesher doesn't seem overly concerned. “As we move into an agile, team-based structure, I'm less focused on head count,” he explains. “We can do more with less and leverage people and tech to be more efficient and faster. We can break that tie between revenue and head count.”

Closerlook enjoyed a successful 2017 on the new business front, adding work from UCB (on Cimzia), Horizon Pharma (on Krystexxa), and Alexion (on Soliris). They join a roster that includes Novo Nordisk's diabetes portfolio. “In almost every case, [clients] were looking for digital as a big part of the strategy, not just as an add-on,” Ormesher notes.

Then there's Closerlook's new partnership with HCB Health. “Digital and data is core to our DNA and HCB is about branding, positioning, and helping launch products in a more traditional agency model. So there are opportunities for us to help each other,” Ormesher says.

Will the two agencies make it official? “Not every partnership turns into a merger,” he replies. “We're learning as we go.”
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