Triple Threat Communications | 2018

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Triple Threat's revenue dipped from $13.7 million in 2016 to $12.8 million in 2017, a 6.6% slide that managing partner Tim Frank attributes to reduced client budgets. “Our biggest challenge was overall advertising and marketing spend,” he says. “We had to do more with less. Brands were cutting back or not promoting at all.”

At the same time, Frank doesn't dismiss the year entirely. “Last year was challenging,” he says. “We started slow, but ended strong.” That momentum continued into 2018, with Frank saying the company is up 25% compared to the same period in 2017.

Most of the company's work came from existing clients, with 50% attributed to new business. Triple Threat had the same number of AOR clients at the end of 2017 that it did at the end of 2016 (four), but the agency grew its sum of project-based clients from four to six. “The status of AOR means less than ever before,” Frank says. “It doesn't meet a lot of clients' needs.”

The bulk of the independent agency's 2017 revenue came from sales materials, promotional medical education, and professional digital, web, and mobile work.

Despite the revenue shortfall, staff size grew to 37 in 2017, up from 34 in 2016. The agency once again focused its attention on higher-ups. According to Frank, there are no lower-level job titles at Triple Threat as he describes the agency “as a place only experienced executives come to.” He also touts a low turnover rate, reporting Triple Threat only loses one employee every two years. On the staff front, Frank tends to equate silence with productivity, which is why the sound you often hear when walking the agency's halls is no sound at all. Employees are typically off-site, sometimes working out of clients' offices. “There are specific days when we all get together, but there are generally few people at the office,” Frank explains.

Indeed, Triple Threat bills itself as something of an iconoclast in the staid agency world. A mantra of the firm is “You wake up every day, focused on the success of your brand. Shouldn't your agency do the same?”

Citing confidentiality agreements, Frank declined to discuss Triple Threat's clients or brands, but therapeutic categories include respiratory, cardiovascular, oncology, and infectious disease pain management. The agency is known to work with AstraZeneca, Innocoll, and Purdue/Eisai.

Asked about the biggest challenges currently facing Triple Threat, Frank points to pricing- and procurement-related issues; shrinking pharma budgets; and transparency.

“There's a general lack of transparency in the client-agency relationship,” he explains, noting it shouldn't prove as much of an impediment as it currently does. “What does the client-agency relationship need to move forward? If the brand succeeds, everybody succeeds.”

And don't look for Frank and Triple Threat to waste too much time worrying about the disruptors in 2018. He doesn't dismiss Amazon as a potentially game-changing entrant, but says “it's too soon to gauge” the behemoth's impact on pharma and healthcare. However, he notes pharma might be its own biggest enemy in the face of such threats. “Pharma is always slow to adapt,” he adds.
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