Oncology specialist firm Biolumina had its highest revenue year in 2018 and topped that sum in 2019, a feat president and CEO Kirsten Kantak characterizes as the company’s “biggest performance yet.” Per MM&M estimates, revenue topped $55 million in 2019, up more than 30% from an estimated $42 million in 2018. The company did well on the new-business front, adding three new accounts to join heavy-hitter oncology work from Novartis (Afinitor, Kisqali and the company’s breast cancer franchise) and AstraZeneca (Tagrisso, Iressa and immunotherapy Imfinzi).

Kantak credits the continued success in large part to a change in Biolumina’s business structure. “One of the things we did over the course of last year was shift from a single business unit into squads,” she explains. Each of the three squads is led by an account person, an art person and a copy person, and each is responsible for about the same amount of revenue. 

“We wanted to find the right balance of maintaining that small-agency feel while also creating a structure that would facilitate continued growth within the agency,” Kantak adds.

By in effect partitioning the agency, Biolumina believes it can give clients consistent access to senior-level staffers. “That’s one of the most important things from the client’s perspective, in terms of ensuring that we’re delivering good work and that they have access to senior people across functions who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved in their business,” Kantak says.

Biolumina has also launched what it calls the Curiosity Collaborative, a mash-up of customer experience and medical strategy capabilities led by SVP, managing director of strategy Brenda Aske and new hire SVP, director of customer experience David Cherry, who recently arrived from Brick City Greenhouse.

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“The knowledge and experience of that team is really important when you’re starting to understand a particular disease state or a cancer — like, how does an oncologist interact with the messaging?”” Kantak explains. “We can now leverage this powerful group of people who understand the science, the disease state and the customer. It’s a powerful engine to drive all the work that we’re doing.” 

Other significant personnel added last year included SVP, experience planner Mark Dean; SVP, director of client services Danielle Cranwell; and SVP, group creative director of art Kyle Grazia. In addition, nine “boomerangers” returned in 2019, Kantak notes. All told, Biolumina grew its staff size from 185 to 240, per MM&M estimates.

The agency doesn’t plan to stop there, Kantak says. Going forward, the agency’s biggest challenge will remain the recruitment and hiring of new talent. “As a company, we have a perception challenge, because we’re an oncology-focused shop. The immediate perception is, ‘Oh, it’s boring. It’s not creative,’” Kantak says.

She believes that notion has little basis in reality. “We’re making real differences in people’s lives and helping them live longer in a way that we haven’t ever seen in this space. People walk through the agency and they feel a sense of energy and laughter and fun. We’re doing important work and we’re making a real difference.”


The best marketing we saw in 2019…

We’re not sure who did this, but www.trkcancer.com/pathologists/ and its integration across stakeholders in oncology is really compelling. We had seen the Octopus creative campaign for a while, but the patient one is new and we love how it conveys that the mutation is a buried treasure. It visually parallels the professional campaign. — Kirsten Kantak