Razorfish Health

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Of all the agencies in MM&M 's 2016 rankings, few have as much of a claim to digital primacy as Razorfish Health. Founded as a pure digital play, the company was working the web when others were still pondering their first “nontraditional hire.”

In recent years, however, Razorfish has grown well beyond that initial competency. “We've broadened our positioning and become a full-service agency,” says Matt McNally, group president of Publicis Health Media, who added oversight of Razorfish earlier this year. That new breadth was reflected in Razorfish's two wins in 2015. From Bayer it added digital consumer AOR responsibilities for allergy, skincare, and gastrointestinal brands. It also landed MDVIP, a concierge-type healthcare provider that focuses on baby boomers, providing one-on-one medical care for a flat fee.

“It's very popular for people with chronic conditions. The company wants to use a lot of data-driven marketing, bringing in more leads and increasing conversion rates,” says Jeff Smith, Razorfish's global head of technology.

Another example of Razorfish's broader thinking can be seen in the firm's work for AstraZeneca. “We've moved from simply completing mobile apps to developing mobile platforms that are intended to improve outcomes,” says Karl Tiedemann, EVP, account services. The company is currently testing the effectiveness of the agency's apps in changing behaviors in patients with chronic diseases.

Tiedemann adds that the agency's expanding ambition is also evident in moves like the consolidation of offices in New York and Philadelphia. “It's resulting in a lot more cross-pollination. It's no longer about when to bring in the tech team or strategy or creative. They're all already at the table. That's been rejuvenating,” he notes.

There have been losses along the way, however. Industry consolidation led to the end of Razorfish's relationships with Auxilium and Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Another departure came on the personnel front: MD Shannon Hartley left to join Shatterproof, a nonprofit focused on beating addiction — and now, not coincidentally, a Razorfish client. David Paragamian, who joins the agency from ApotheCom, replaces her.

Razorfish higher-ups say they expect more growth as healthcare and pharma companies deepen their appreciation for exceptional user experiences. “One of the reasons we believe this is our year is that consumers are demanding a lot more quality in all their digital experiences,” says Smith. “It's no longer acceptable for them to have a crappy time. They want all their interactions to be as good as the ones they have with Amazon, Apple, and Target.”

Razorfish is thus investing heavily in tools and personnel that sharpen its advantage in the use of data, the personalization of experiences, and — in a move execs say sets it apart from other firms — ensuring full HIPPA compliance. Hiring individuals who can handle such a range of tasks, of course, continues to be one of Razorfish's biggest challenges. “It's not just about finding people who can write code. They have to be able to manage, lead, communicate well, and understand what clients need,” Smith notes.

And like most agencies, Razorfish is feeling the acute pressure of pharmaceutical companies asking their agency partners to do more with less, even as they push for sophisticated marketing programs and services. “Clients want a fuller, more complete experience as they're spending less,” says McNally. “To stay nimble, we are offshoring tech. But we're better positioned than ever to help clients navigate these complexities,” he says.

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