Asked to identify their most vexing challenges, most agency execs default to the common candidates — recruiting/retaining talent, procurement headaches and the like. But when posed the same question, DiD Agency partner and chief customer officer Bill Fay has a response that requires some additional explanation: “There’s no playbook.”

Fay is referring to the client and assignment mix at DiD, which he believes to be unique among agencies of comparable size. “If you’re just solving Rx or device problems, things are simpler. You understand what the challenges look like,” he explains. “Most of the problems we face are unique. There isn’t a playbook you can pull out and say, ‘Oh, this will work for this problem.’”

Fay and fellow DiD partner and chief operations officer Elyse Cole wouldn’t have it any other way. Cole responds to a question about outside perception of the company — among clients, would-be employees and anyone/everyone else — by noting, “We hear that we’re a different type of partner. We’re described as getting things done that clients didn’t think were possible.”

That proposition appears to have been an effective lure during a 2019 that saw DiD add assignments from J&J Consumer (on allergy drug Zyrtec), Galderma (on aesthetic brands Sculptra and Restylane Kysse) and Novartis (on its fevipiprant respiratory compound, which didn’t meet Phase III endpoints). The agency also expanded its relationship with Janssen to include an upcoming CNS launch and global work on mood disorder treatments Invega Sustenna and Invega Trinza. It reports that 65% of growth came from new business.

Last year was nonetheless something of a transition year for DiD, with revenue ($22.6 million) and head count (132) remaining basically static versus the same period one year ago ($22.5 million and 130, respectively). “There was a flatness to our business,” Fay says.

At the same time, he attributes the flatness to DiD establishing its challenger-agency bona fides. “We began looking at things and asking, ‘Why does it have to be this way? Can we do it smarter or faster?’” Fay continues. “That has set us up well for 2020.”

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Part of the reassessment included the creation of smaller teams for OTC, Rx, devices and other work that demands category-specific expertise. 

“The idea was to design something that’s a little bit different and a little bit better than what clients have experienced,” Cole explains. “It gets deeper into the subject-matter experience clients want. It shows the diversity of our thinking.”

Expect to see DiD further bolster its analytics capabilities during the second half of 2020, even as COVID-19 continues to disrupt most aspects of agency life. Cole believes that “more dynamic, push-pull marketing experiences” will emerge in the pandemic’s wake, while Fay believes that “the idea of brands owning more of their experience” will take root amid the crisis.

“I hope I’ll be telling you that marketers have accepted the challenge,” he adds. “You’ll see clients be creative around, ‘How do I do this with a rep who can’t show up?’ and ‘How do I make non-personal promotion about more than email?’”


The best marketing we saw in 2019…

The #InThisTogetherOhio PSA from Ohio’s department of health. We often have to find incredibly simplistic ways of telling complicated stories, and this PSA instantly visualizes the benefits of the new cultural norm that is social distancing. The PSA captures the drama of the spread nicely, but gives viewers hope that their efforts can have a positive impact. — Bill Fay