Top execs at MedThink Communications don't have to think for long before naming their biggest highlight of 2015. It was the moment that they — and presumably their clients — started to sense that the Data+Soul positioning the agency had adopted had started to generate excitement in the marketplace.
“Last year we had been talking a lot about building a value proposition for the agency around metrics,” explains VP and MD Laura Perry. “This is the year we started to prove it.”
By way of example, Perry points to the agency's DTC work for Arbor Pharmaceuticals' Edarbi and Edarbyclor. “It did exactly what we were hoping for,” she says. “[The drugs] are not market leaders in the cardiovascular space, but they are efficacy leaders. We were able to link the impact of our work to a lift in prescriptions, and that really gave us confidence.”
The Edarbi and Edarbyclor success prompted MedThink to take the step of making a client guarantee, something seldom seen in the world of pharma marketing. The firm now promises its clients a minimum of a two-to-one return on their investment.
MedThink president Scott Goudy notes, however, that accustoming clients to the agency's new approach is challenging. “We're changing traditional marketing behavior, and that takes a concerted kind of discipline,” he says. “Once we establish the key-performance indicators, we may need to do some course-correcting, some changing of tactics, to meet them.” He quickly and pointedly adds a caveat: “With the results we're beginning to see, our customers are getting more excited. That can hasten the change.”
“We're targeting clients who really want to partner with us,” Perry adds. “It's taking us back to that more traditional full-service model, showing them we can do it all efficiently.”
The new thinking and approach led to six wins, among them Inovio Pharmaceuticals, CMRI (a research-training organization), and Arbor Pharmaceuticals' Sklice (a head lice treatment).
Goudy reports that revenue jumped 10% in 2015 and remains in the “$10 million to $15 million” range. Staff size has surged as well, up into the mid-60s. Owing to its location in the heart of the North Carolina's research triangle, MedThink has had little difficulty hiring people with strong science skills — a task with which many agencies have struggled. On the other hand, MedThink has had a harder time onboarding individuals with account-management experience, Perry notes. Key recent hires include senior account director, brand strategy and client services Evelyn Roces, while SVP Angie Miller's role has been expanded to include business development.
Going forward, Goudy says Data+Soul will help MedThink's clients get past what he perceives as the biggest problem in pharma. “Companies are very risk-averse in this climate, and it's having a negative impact on innovation,” he says, reiterating that MedThink's ability to offer very specific proof that a given marketing approach can move the sales needle should help them get over that timidity.