Last year, in order to help employees adopt a startup-type mentality, Chicago-based Closerlook’s DevOps team dove into Agile project management. To facilitate the transition, it brought in Critical Mass exec Dan Levengood as VP, project delivery and charged him with restructuring the agency’s project workflow and leading the Agile implementation.

“Our DevOps teams were happy using Agile for quite a while, but we weren’t sure how it would work across strategy, creative and marketing intelligence,” explains Closerlook CEO David Ormesher. “We made a big decision last year that we were going to do this even though there weren’t necessarily a lot of examples of marketing agencies doing it — and it was one of the best things we could have done in 2019.”

By way of example, Ormesher touts the benefits from a capabilities perspective. In 2019, the agency launched 10 new software tools into the market, including its Backstage Intelligence analytics platform that puts all of a client’s data — commercial, competitive, marketing and more — onto a single platform.

“We can react to what the market is telling us in near-real time and enable brand marketers to move faster with digital marketing,” he adds. 

Ormesher reports the new focus contributed to a revenue boost. He says Closerlook generated $24 million in 2019 revenue, up from an MM&M-estimated $21.5 million in 2018, despite reducing staff size from 115 at the end of 2018 to 95 at the end of 2019. The firm expects the growth trajectory to continue, in part due to some high-profile client additions in 2019. 

Horizon EoG closerlook

The agency added seven new biopharma clients across a range of therapeutic areas, from autoimmune diseases and hematology to metabolic syndrome and urology. The wins included patient and digital AOR engagements for Argenx and digital work from Astellas Pharma U.S. and Novo Nordisk’s diabetes unit. New business comprised 15% of Closerlook’s 2019 revenue, Ormesher reports.

In terms of the work itself, Ormesher is especially proud of a campaign for Novo Nordisk’s type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic that highlighted a head-to-head trial with one of its competitors. “We filmed the clinical trial investigator and built an online interactive article with text, imagery, audio and motion embedded in the same piece,” he explains. “We embedded a video player within the article and, to improve SEO, did it all in responsive design.”

In the months ahead, expect Closerlook to launch additional software products that ease digital workloads for pharma clients, especially around the newly intensified challenge of reaching patient and HCP segments. To that end, Ormesher believes the response to COVID-19 is representative of what the future might hold for pharma.

“Digital agencies may need to take a stronger leadership role in digital transformation of the commercial business, because there will be greater reliance on digital versus face-to-face,” he says.

The best marketing we saw in 2019…

The Repatha Escape Room was an immersive live installation that placed HCPs in a room where they experienced a patient’s stroke risk as a shaking, crumbling building. Players had to solve puzzles involving new Repatha data before they could escape. As the game progressed, the threat of the building collapse intensified, thus pushing doctors to collaborate to bring down the patient’s risk. — David Ormesher