Sandbox | 2018

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More than two years after Sandbox unified a collection of firms under a single brand and P&L, partner and chief client officer Joe Kuchta believes the industry still doesn't know what to make of it. “When people hear, ‘Six agencies banded into one,' they think we're a smaller version of Publicis or something,” he quips. “But if we had shareholders, they'd be very pleased.”

Joking or not, Kuchta has a point. Sandbox increased its healthcare revenue by just less than 19% in 2017, from $32 million to $38 million, and its staff size from 363 to 428 (the agency doesn't break down employees by marketing discipline, but healthcare accounts for roughly 50% of its total business).

The agency also moved boldly on the acquisition front late last year, snapping up highly regarded digital shop Ymarketing — which happened to bring with it a premier client in UnitedHealthcare.

Kuchta expects the growth to continue. He anticipates Sandbox's total revenue will eclipse $70 million in 2018 and that the company “will be floating around $100 million and 500 people in a couple of years.”

“That is manageable,” he adds. “It's not like saying we want to be a certain predetermined size, because who knows what would happen if we got there?”

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Sandbox's growth was fueled by an influx of new — and distinct — business. It was tapped for a corporate image campaign by Axovant and named AOR for Abbott Nutritionals' Ensure. It also added three smaller, lesser-known organizations (Leiters, Xellia, and Coherus) to its mix, alongside roster mainstays such as Shire, Mylan, and Kite Pharma. Kuchta seems as enthused about working with the smaller companies as he does the established ones. “Coherus does biosimilars, Xellia is behind the scenes for hospital systems, and Leiters is going to reinvent outsourcing services,” he says. “I love that we can scale our effort to work with pretty much anyone.” At the same time, Kuchta laments the end of the agency's relationship with Biomarin, which predated the formation of Sandbox. He attributes the loss to changeover in internal marketing teams.

The firm will slow its pursuit of acquisitions in the months ahead, though Kuchta says it could pivot if the right company becomes available. “We want to continue to, excuse my French, get our shit together.”

Beyond that, one senses Kuchta would be fine with the status quo.

“When we speak again, hopefully I'll be telling you that Shire hasn't been bought out by anybody and that we're still working with them,” he explains. “But we're doing everything we set out to do. We're our best selves right now.”
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