Last year, as ApotheCom was conducting its business planning for 2020, something unusual happened. And then it happened again and again, for a total of three times within four weeks.
In each instance, global CEO Elaine Ferguson found herself on the phone with a med-ed client — and each time, the client complained, unprompted, about one of its other agency partners. “The creative campaigns the clients were working on with other agencies had deviated so far away from the scientific essence of what they were trying to communicate that it was unfixable,” she recalls. “They wanted to know if we could take them on board and bring our scientific capabilities to their creative.”
ApotheCom happily assumed the additional business, but the swiftness with which it came the agency’s way made Ferguson realize there was a market need that wasn’t being met. Shortly thereafter, ApotheCom launched Science Affinity, a new practice area focusing on integrated commercialization strategy for specialized therapy areas. Headed by SVP, science affinity lead Serena Mistry Faria, the practice focuses on clinical trial recruitment, professional HCP communications and more.
That represented the first of three big changes during 2019. The second was the addition of a Boston office, led by former Cambridge BioMarketing exec Sam Falsetti. “You walk around Cambridge and it’s like a Monopoly board of biotech companies,” says Ferguson. “Having a footprint in their world is proving really important for us in terms of close relationships and building that business.”
Finally, in the middle of 2019, ApotheCom acquired Creativ-Ceutical, an 80-strong global health economics and outcomes research, pricing and market access consultancy. ApotheCom grew its staff size independent of the deal, ending 2019 with 265 people under its roofs, up 40 from its end-of-2018 sum. (The 2019 number surges to 345 with the Creativ-Ceutical additions.)
At the same time, Ferguson notes ApotheCom doesn’t have what would be called a “typical” hierarchical agency structure with account, content and creative leads. “We don’t do it that way. We look at the client and then we build our team around the skill set for the client,” she explains. “A client will typically work with at least one member — and more often more than one member — of the leadership team. And quite often as part of that, we will contribute our time with no fees attached to it.”
ApotheCom has even attached a name to the top-heavy approach, Ferguson adds. “We call it our ‘principal principles.’ Every single piece of business, no matter how big or how small, is actually led by at least one of the principals in our organization.”
Ferguson believes this leadership-involvement mandate has contributed to its run of success on the new-business front. At the end of 2018, ApotheCom counted 13 AOR engagements and 59 project-based ones on its rolls; by the end of 2019, it had grown those to 22 and 85, respectively.
Additions to the client roster included GlaxoSmithKline, Regeneron and gene therapy firm Voyager Therapeutics. Revenue surged from $46.2 million in 2018 to $57.5 million in 2019, just shy of a 25% jump.
THE BEST MARKETING WE SAW IN 2019…
Cool Sculpting’s golf-related social media campaign to raise brand awareness among men. — Elaine Ferguson