Deloitte Digital leveraged its parent’s customer base last year to forge fresh advertising and marketing inroads.

The eight-year-old spin-off saw revenue surge 7% in 2019 to $178 million from $166 million the year prior. A large majority of that new business (roughly 70%) came via its familial connections — namely, parent company Deloitte Consulting’s hefty life science client roster, according to managing director Larry Mickelberg.

“Because Deloitte works with almost everybody, at some point much of the work comes from organic growth,” he says. 

The company’s total number of clients, spanning AOR assignments and project-based work, fell from 77 in 2018 to 61 in 2019. But at the same time, it was these clients — all of them pre-existing ones — that accounted for the agency’s $12 million revenue gain. North American head count remained generally flat last year, per Mickelberg, at about 419 (though adding in global staff who touch health projects would bring that number closer to 1,000.) 

Deloitte’s giant advisory and consulting practice may give Deloitte Digital the proverbial foot in the door — the ability to communicate and promote those offerings to existing customers — but selling its services isn’t exactly a foregone conclusion. ”We spent a lot of time last year working to socialize this part of our offering with the Deloitte teams who are serving life science and healthcare clients across the country,” Mickelberg explains.

Therein also lies what Mickelberg and fellow managing director Mark Miller consider their biggest achievement. “The ability to integrate capabilities across strategy, data and analytics came to fruition,” Miller explains, pointing to the agency’s work in helping biopharma clients connect with audiences in a more personalized way and at scale.

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One of those clients was Amgen, which tapped Deloitte Digital to create a closed-loop, patient-engagement tool specifically designed to support patients in new therapies. The tool, dubbed Pulse, runs on the ConvergeHealth Patient Connect platform, a suite of products launched by Deloitte last year in concert with Salesforce’s Health Cloud. The suite also includes products targeting clinical trials, public health and providers. 

The multi-year Amgen assignment, executed in several countries, is designed to drive better health outcomes across the company’s enterprise portfolio of brands. Based on improvements the client is already realizing in campaign delivery time and operational costs, Salesforce gave Deloitte Digital a partner innovation award last year.

More than 250,000 HCPs and patients have been served personalized content to drive deeper engagement with brands. Similarly, more than 322,000 patients have engaged through its digital and web experience to receive co-pay cards and reminders. Amgen has seen a 33% reduction in campaign costs and a campaign lifecycle reduction from months and weeks to weeks and days, Mickelberg reports.

The above example is one among a variety of new marketing opportunities Deloitte Digital developed last year for clients, most in the big or midsize pharma and med-tech realms. “The overwhelming client response remains, ‘Wow, I didn’t know Deloitte did this kind of work for us.’ Every day is an opportunity to further educate the marketplace,” Mickelberg says.

The agency’s pitch isn’t solely about technology, he adds. “If we don’t understand the role of motivations and emotion in peoples’ decision-making, we cannot effectively reach or help them,” Mickelberg continues. Thus going hand-in-hand with those brand experiences is a need to execute them with an understanding of human nature, playing into emotions and delivering information with what he calls “low cognitive load.”

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“The right motivational message that addresses a behavioral barrier at the right time for people will be effective when it addresses hurdles to irrational health decision-making,” he says. “The key is knowing where people are in their behavior-change journey and to cue or nudge them in numerous, simple ways.”

Then again, tech’s role in Deloitte Digital’s work can’t be underestimated — and its influence is only growing. “With the advent of COVID-19, the traditional field force model within pharma is grounded, medical conferences have changed to virtual, the practice setting is not ready for virtual care and access to treatments may be delayed. So there’s remarkable new pressure on how to activate and engage with HCP and patient alike,” says Mickelberg.

That means pharma needs to up its non-personal promotion game. “It’s not just outbound email, direct mail and SMS,” Miller stresses. “You have to be able to work with endemic media partners including Medscape and Doximity and emerging ones such as HCP programmatic, which is essentially non-endemic targeting.”

This is where being part of Deloitte has enabled the agency to shine. It has launched several pandemic response offerings, including a “recovery studio,” which presents half-day sessions for clients around opportunities/challenges and go-to-market planning; a COVID-19 life science and healthcare social sensing report, which draws on Deloitte sibling agency Heat’s AI platform and another partner, Sprinkler, to gather conversational trends, share-of-voice and sentiment info; and a Connect COVID for Crisis Response platform, enabling healthcare organizations access to digital training, monitoring and tools to remotely manage therapy of coronavirus patients and quarantined people. The latter was launched in partnership with the Salesforce Health Cloud.

The key is knowing where people are in their behavior-change journey and to cue or nudge them in numerous, simple ways.Larry Mickelberg

And while much has been made about the agency-versus-consultancy trope, in Deloitte Digital’s case the lines between the two have blurred for the better. The agency remains focused on building a team capable of forging a better future for health and wellness marketing and advertising.

Eventually, Mickelberg and Miller say, they want to work with clients interested in engaging audiences pre-diagnosis through a connected, partner-driven health and wellness ecosystem. “For most pharma clients, it’s about, ‘How do I reach my audience right now to drive incremental ‘scripts or new starts?’” Miller explains. “Pharma brands can play a much bigger role in driving condition awareness by switching from a short-term to a long-term focus, which means we have to be able to find patients early in the journey rather than when ready to convert to therapy.”

Adds Mickelberg, “We can run this kind of work for clients, too. It’s not just about advertising; we can execute marketing-as-a-service. That will be a big part of our story in the years to come.”


The best marketing we saw in 2019…

Challenge Accepted, the unbranded work by 21Grams for Genentech. We appreciate the dissonant use of comedy for a disease typically treated with justifiable seriousness, as well as the delivery in short, episodic digital films to create a more open dialogue around the emotional and physical impacts of hemophilia. — Larry Mickelberg