CG Life has been working in medical marketing and communications for some 17 years now, yet this year marks its first appearance in MM&M’s Agency 100 — the first time, in fact, that it even put itself up for consideration. Asked about the reversal, managing partner and COO Steve Johnson shrugs. “We’ve been focused on delivering the work, rather than promoting the agency.”

But following a growth year, Johnson and fellow managing partner and CEO Erik Clausen thought it was time to heed the advice they’ve long been giving to clients. “We’re always telling them to go out and talk to the marketplace about their work. Last year we took our own medicine and started doing that,” Clausen explains.

Consider this your CG Life primer. Johnson believes the company’s core differentiator is its scientific bent. “We started in the life science marketplace and evolved into diagnostics and the broader pharma market, but the underlying component to everything we do is science,” he says.

On the back of that offering, CG Life saw revenue jump 15% in 2019 to $9 million from 2018’s take of $7.8 million. “Reaching $9 million was part of last year’s goal,” Johnson says. “We worked hard to hit it and to do it in a way that’s sustainable, bringing in the right people and putting the right infrastructure in place.”

Staff size increased from 42 full-timers at the end of 2018 to 46 at the end of 2019, with CG Life bolstering its leadership with two additions. Former Scout Marketing creative director Lawrence Lee joined the agency as executive creative director, while onetime Baxter International global director, external communications Bill Rader joined as VP, public relations. The firm is headquartered in Chicago, with offices in San Diego and Denver.

CG Life also grew via acquisition. At the end of December the agency snapped up The Market Element, a digital marketing and marketing automation agency located outside Denver. Shortly thereafter, it acquired McDay, a strategic marketing communications agency based in Philadelphia. “We’re already seeing synergy among all the businesses,” Johnson reports.

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On the client front, CG Life added assignments from Adamas Pharmaceuticals (on Gocovri, which treats a condition related to Parkinson’s disease), Agios Pharmaceuticals (for clinical branding support), Ventas and PDI Healthcare. Celgene, now BMS, came on board for “market conditioning in multiple sclerosis, including an international campaign,” Clausen says, while AbbVie tapped the agency for strategy work on its Clinical Trials and Me website. CG Life’s relationship with W.L. Gore ended following an agency consolidation.

As for the effect that COVID-19 has had on the company’s business, Clausen says that staffers have put their heads down and dealt with the disruption. “We’ve had an influx of work from clients who are involved in vaccine development, diagnostics and infection prevention, and we haven’t yet seen a huge pullback in marketing budgets from other clients,” he says. “So at least in the near term, our challenge is keeping up with the work and — knock on wood — preparing for a situation where that changes.

“We’re taking it day-to-day, but so far we’ve been very fortunate,” Johnson adds.

The best marketing we saw in 2019…

The campaign for Allergan’s bipolar treatment Vraylar by BBDO. It captures and channels the patient experience with a perspective that’s unique and powerful. It’s inspiring and really well done. — Erik Clausen