MEI | 2018

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As MEI approached its 10th birthday this year, EVP, account services Curtis Herrmann found himself wondering whether the agency needed to take a look in the mirror. It wasn't because business was lagging — the firm grew its revenue from $22 million in 2016 to $26 million in 2017 — or because he sensed anything resembling discontent among the troops.

Rather, it was in response to a decade of steady expansion. Starting out in 2008 as a small medical communications shop, MEI had grown into a full-service firm with 120-plus people on hand and a talent for priming potential markets in advance of brand and indication launches.

“If you go back over the past five years or so, we'd been ahead of the curve in terms of traditional peer-to-peer marketing in the medical communications space,” Herrmann recalls. “We'd kept our heads down and expended our resources on client work.”

In other words, MEI hadn't done much work on itself. So toward the end of 2017, the agency spruced up its web presence and ran itself through the type of brand-refresh exercise it often conducts on behalf of its clients. “We were overdue for a rebrand across the board,” Herrmann says.

In its wake, MEI reemphasized the agency's across-the-board capabilities and especially its upgraded medical strategy offering. “This has always been a focus for us, but we view it as more important than ever,” Herrmann says, adding most people in the company immediately saw the value of the effort: “We learned not to assume that doing something such as this wouldn't have an impact. It was a huge eye-opener for me personally.”

As for client work, Herrmann says the agency will direct three launches in three distinct therapeutic categories by next April. He's most enthusiastic about work with a biotech (that, alas, he declines to name) that has developed a treatment for a rare and serious lymphoma.

“We were in the room when there were literally just two commercial people. They didn't know what they needed,” Herrmann explains. “We identified the right people for them to engage with and crafted a complex clinical story that could be ingested at the treater level.” The drug is set to launch before the end of Q3 2018.

That's on top of the three new assignments Herrmann reports the firm added during the first half of 2018. Client mainstays for the agency include Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Agios Pharmaceuticals, and Mylan.

“We're not afraid to roll up our sleeves and jump into a situation,” Herrmann says. “We'll speak our minds and defend our position, even if it may not be initially agreeable.”

Look for MEI to pursue “opportunistic growth” in the months ahead, rather than shoot for a specific number of new assignments or increase staff size by a finite number.

“We try to have a view that we're looking to have a good decade, not a good month or quarter,” Herrmann explains. “If we're doing great work and exceeding client expectations, the opportunities will follow.”
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