While 2018 was a year of rapid-fire recalibration at DDB Health, 2019 was one of experimentation. And to hear agency president Jennie Fischette tell it, 2020 promises to be the one in which DDB Health starts to live and breathe its newly instituted mantra: “Dare to do boldly.”

She says the new outlook gives the company and its people “permission to understand that learning comes through failure.” To that end, an early effect has been to push DDB Health away from an overreliance on data-driven insights and towards a mindset that allows creativity and experimentation to flourish.

Given that her firm operates in an increasingly data-driven industry, Fischette acknowledges the temptation to rely entirely on the numbers. But on the other hand, she notes the data can become a crutch. As a result, DDB Health finds itself walking a fine line: “We constantly tweak the work to be able to mold to the insights that we’re now receiving in real time,” Fischette says.

It doesn’t hurt that DDB Health is engineering the philosophical transformation with a core team intact: The last member added to its executive suite was Megan Fabry, who joined two years ago as head of channels and innovation, a role in which she leads the effort to translate data into stories. Especially in the wake of COVID-related turbulence, this has proven a selling point with would-be clients.

Along those lines, the agency performed well on the new-business front in 2019, adding work from Novartis, AbbVie and up-and-coming oncology firm Y-mAbs Therapeutics to a roster that counts Amgen, Genentech and Boehringer Ingelheim among its mainstays. Revenue increased to $57 million from 2018’s take of $54 million, while staff size nudged upward from 175 to 181.

Fischette expects some turbulence in the second half of 2020 as the world continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Among the questions that DDB Health expects to field: “How do we help representatives have meaningful calls with empathy? And how are we helping them through the lens of not just their product, but understanding the complete environment in which clinicians are working?”

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Fischette thinks the DDB Health team is up to the challenge. The key, she believes, will be figuring out “how to break through the clutter and make connections that are meaningful but also appropriate.”

Already, she senses several burgeoning trends. “Healthcare providers want to be able to hear the data about how patients are doing if they have COVID-19,” Fischette stresses. At the same time, she notes that clinicians are equally interested in learning what reps can offer in terms of managing patient concerns virtually. They want concise talking points and patient materials that can be emailed rather than hand-delivered, she adds. 

“Providers are looking for a different type of value from the representative than we’ve seen them seek out before. They want a different type of engagement and a valued and appropriate conversation. That’s what we’re trying to facilitate,” Fischette says.


The best marketing we saw in 2019…

Array has an interesting ad in which there’s a butterfly breaking through glass. It speaks to the power of its product, but also the delicate balance that it delivers to patients. It’s a unique and compelling representation of a product profile that’s seen without words. — Jennie Fischette