Imre Health’s approach has long been shaped by its independence, and the ability to make fast, fearless decisions that comes with it. In 2018, the agency pivoted toward empathy: All members of a diabetes campaign team pricked their fingers to see what it was actually like to have to test blood sugar daily. Last year, the agency evolved this empathy play even further, transforming it into what Imre Health president Jeff Smokler calls “compassionate intelligence.”
At its core, compassionate intelligence is designed so brand teams think of compassionate ways to do marketing, Smokler explains. It’s also a service offering that informs Imre Health’s work on Pfizer’s rare disease emerging market global portfolio, among other accounts.
As part of the engagement, team Imre traveled to Vietnam, Panama and Turkey, where it led workshops across Pfizer’s emerging markets portfolio. “It was marketers, compliance officers and people at all levels,” Smokler says. “We trained them on what compassionate intelligence and marketing look like — how you weave it into your HCP communications, how you talk to clients about it.” Pfizer was sufficiently impressed by the results that it is expanding the program to additional countries in 2020.
Smokler says Imre Health’s focus on not just what a disease is but how it affects HCPs and patients on a daily basis helped the agency simultaneously improve its work and grow. The agency has nearly doubled revenue for two years running, generating $5.95 million in 2017, $11.5 million in 2018 and $20.9 million in 2019. Head count has similarly spiked, from 69 full-timers at the end of 2018 to 100 at the end of 2019. The pandemic may slow 2020 growth.
Flagship work included assignments from Amag Pharmaceuticals (on hypoactive sexual desire disorder drug Vyleesi) and GlaxoSmithKline (on an unnamed soon-to-launch multiple myeloma treatment and on Zejula, which recently got the FDA’s nod for first-line use in ovarian cancer). The agency also added business from Pfizer on its post-exclusivity brands: ED mainstay Viagra, Dilantin for seizures, Lyrica for fibromyalgia and Relpax for migraines.
“We picked up a lot of social work. We were faced with more work than we had people to do it,” Smokler says.
The solution? Expansion into the competitive Philadelphia market. Imre Health hired 15 new employees and formally opened its fourth office in February. The bulk of the company’s GlaxoSmithKline work and the four post-exclusivity Pfizer brands are handled out of Philadelphia.
The growth created the need for agency restructuring beyond the geographical expansion. To that end, Imre Health hired five high-level execs and created a role that oversees the agency’s accounts, creative, project management and strategy/insight divisions. Smokler explains the agency’s thinking by noting: “There needs to be a VP overseeing every piece of business, but how do we connect the four areas? How do we keep them from working in silos?”
Lindsay Hughes, most recently VP, accounts, was promoted to fill the new SVP, integration post. New hires included SVP, public relations Stephanie Friess; director, medical and scientific affairs Shane McDevitt; VP, account management Jessie McDonald; VP, social marketing Josh Simon; and director, HCP strategy Amy Weintraub.
The best marketing we saw in 2019…
We were really taken with the Genentech hemophilia series on YouTube. This reality TV–like content is engaging and informative for everyone, and showing the everyday struggles of people living with hemophilia allows for others to see themselves in the content. It hits the right empathetic notes. — Jeff Smokler