You don’t hear FCB Health New York complaining about finding fresh talent in the healthcare field. While many agency leaders sound like a broken record when asked about finding and recruiting new talent, FCB Health Network CEO, president Dana Maiman revels in what she calls the boomerang effect.

Of the phenomenon of having former employees return to the agency, Maiman says, “It’s one of the most fulfilling aspects of my job and such a proof point that we’re doing things differently from every other agency. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

But Maiman acknowledges that hiring still takes effort, especially in a year when almost 200 openings were filled at FCB Health NY alone: Head count jumped from 682 at the end of 2018 to 874 at the end of 2019. To fill the vacancies, the agency went to work on initiatives like The Residency, a six-week program for new hires who may have worked for decades in general advertising but lack the skills needed for a seamless transition to healthcare. “They’re people who have the creative aptitude and work ethic, and who understand what a big idea is,” says FCB Health NY managing director, creative Kathleen Nanda. 

“These folks might have thought about moving over, but were scared by the science or thought they wouldn’t know how to create in such a heavily regulated environment,” Maiman adds. “We’ve created a safe, supportive place where they can learn and develop these skills.”

Boomerangers included group creative director Joe Riippi and SVP, creative director Kerry Fox Ciociola, both of whom returned to FCB Health NY from McCann Health; and SVP, creative director Jessica Wey, from Harrison and Star. Among the first-time hires were Dentsu 360i’s Chris Seda, in the newly created position of director of experience design, and Concentric Health Experience’s Diane Vinch, now EVP, group management director. Nanda was promoted to replace Rich Levy, who decamped to Klick Health as executive creative director.

Financially speaking, Maiman characterizes 2019 as “a fabulous year that utterly exceeded all our expectations. We broke every record — in terms of revenue, revenue growth, number of employees, number of hires, the type of creative awards, the business we won and launches galore.” MM&M estimates that FCB Health NY generated $280 million in revenue in 2019, up nearly 28% from its estimated 2018 take of $219 million.

THE LOCKDOWN fcb health ny

On the client side, Nanda touts the agency’s work for Boehringer Ingelheim (on a COPD campaign), nonprofit Colin’s Hope (on the Not Out of the Water water safety campaign) and AbbVie (on the SpeakEndo push encouraging women to speak up about endometriosis). FCB Health NY also continued working with Pfizer (on topical eczema treatment Eucrisa), on an effort that “helped them get the brand on social media channels — their first Instagram presence, first Facebook presence,” Nanda says.

The company also flexed its launch muscles, with FCB Health Network chief commercial officer Michael Guarino noting the agency launched a product every month during 2019, and sometimes two. He adds that about half the agency’s new business came from companies they’ve worked with for a long time. “It’s an acknowledgement of the great work we’re doing.”

New roster additions included Esperion Therapeutics, a company set to debut a cholesterol drug. Maiman touts the agency’s work on Esperion’s behalf as “highly integrated: HCP, social, digital and DTC — it’s everything.”

Among the ongoing initiatives at FCB Health NY in 2019 was further bolstering of its digital capabilities. Indeed, when FCB Health Network chief product officer Graham Johnson joined the staff eight years ago, that task topped his first to-do list.

“A lot of agencies farm this stuff out, but we wanted it in-house,” Johnson explains. “Today, we have about 25 developers on staff and 10 to 15 on the experiential side.”

Tactics such as VR and AR have become increasingly popular owing to their ability to change behavior (“and cool technologies tend to draw attention at a convention booth,” Johnson quips). That said, FCB Health NY has embraced immersive storytelling technology mostly because “it is really good at showing people what it’s like to have a disease — whether it’s for someone whose loved one is suffering or for a doctor who treats it. It’s a powerful tool to create empathy,” Johnson continues.

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Last year the firm created a new department, experience design, to carry out these complex digital projects. Among its most recent innovations: room-scale VR. “You’re wearing a headset in a virtual space, but you’re actually interacting with the physical world,” Johnson explains.

Director of content creation Matt Hall adds that such technologies are going to become the next form of media. “We’re closer than we think,” he explains. “We’ve gone from TV to internet to mobile, and the work we’re doing now is prepping us for the new world to come.”

To that end, FCB Health NY learned to finesse working remotely prior to the coronavirus crisis. Guarino notes the firm led more than 100 workshops last year, and most had virtual components. “We’d have clients sitting in three, four, 10 different countries and in multiple time zones, so we’ve come up with unique solutions,” he says. “With the current unfortunate situation, we don’t have to catch up. We’re just taking what we’ve been doing and applying it to today’s world.”

Nanda adds FCB Health NY has deployed tech in other forward-minded ways, including to innovate in photo shoots. In 2019, the agency presided over more than 225 shoots, requiring it to reinvent its relationships with vendors.

As soon as it was clear the pandemic was headed our way, we immediately mobilized four task forces, each focused on a different challenge in our industry. Dana Maiman

“We’re organizing virtual film shoots and doing everything remotely,” Nanda says. “We can have people watching every stage of the production, and make changes in real time and keep clients plugged in to the entire process.” 

Through the first three months of 2020, FCB Health did what it could to stay in front of a rapidly changing work environment. Maiman believes that, going forward, the accumulated experience will prove invaluable.

“As soon as it was clear the pandemic was headed our way, we immediately mobilized four task forces, each focused on a different challenge in our industry,” she says. “We had so many events scheduled, but we pivoted to virtual meetings and pulled them off without a hitch. Hearing that field reps were being turned away from doctors’ offices, our task force mobilized to non-personal promotion and selling ideas. We didn’t wait for clients to call us.”

The best marketing we saw in 2019…

See Sound from our sibling agency Area 23 on behalf of Wavio, a smart-home hearing system that uses AI to listen for sounds and then tells a hearing-impaired person what the sound is. Wavio mined training data from YouTube, with its bazillion videos. Until now the ADA has largely been enforced through the lens of physical spaces, but what’s just as important is making digital experiences accessible to people of varying abilities. — Graham Johnson