Asked to share a defining moment for Klick Health amid the COVID-19 pandemic, agency president Lori Grant cites two.
The first came earlier this year, shortly after Klick had announced the spring installment of its Ideas Exchange experiential event. Set to be headlined by former President Barack Obama and feature a roster of industry leaders, scientists and performers, the mid-May event was shaping up as one of the agency’s highest-profile ones to date.
And then a virulent pathogen reared its head on the other side of the world.
“In early February, we began to understand — because we were tracking all of these curves with COVID — that it was very likely that we, and the entire industry, would have to pivot,” Grant recalls. “As we began talking about that, many people said, ‘You’re overblowing this, you’re being too cautious,’ but we didn’t believe we were.”
To demonstrate the seriousness with which she viewed the gathering threat, Grant assembled a quick video, shot on an iPhone, with a nine-step process for how the agency intended to handle COVID-19. “Within a week, our nine-step process had gone from level one to level nine,” she continues. “And then everyone started to say, ‘Well, gosh. Maybe you guys were thinking about this before everyone else.’”
The second realization made Grant feel less like a Cassandra warning of impending danger and more like a sought-after COVID consultant. After ensuring its own employees felt safe and cared for, Klick shifted to support all of its partners, from academic institutions such as Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Singularity and the University of Toronto to medical centers such as Boston Children’s Hospital.
Then came a call from perhaps the most public of all public health groups. As Grant remembers it, “Leerom [Segal, Klick CEO and cofounder,] pinged me: ‘I need you on a call. It’s WHO in Geneva.’”
What was that like? “Quite extraordinary,” Grant says, adding that such moments have now become almost a matter of routine. “We are on calls with such partners, because they’re saying, ‘How can Klick pivot and help?’”
Both experiences stand out not so much as vindication of the firm’s prescience as much as proof of what Grant calls its “conditioning to think in experimentation, to think in change, to think exponentially, to recognize curves,” and to act in a people-first manner. That mantra came to life during the early weeks of the pandemic through donations to medical professionals on the frontlines (it delivered 400,000 N95 masks and 300 intubation boxes to healthcare facilities). Klick also enlisted its innovation lab to explore the use of a digital spirometer to detect COVID-19 digitabiomarkers and the use of voice technology to discern a COVID cough from others.
Klick attacked the task at hand with admirable transparency. As clients began asking for guidance on seamlessly shifting their people to remote working, the firm open-sourced all its policies. These ranged from safety protocols and FAQs from its teams to Grant’s nine-step process and POVs on adapting to a changed marketplace. These were posted on a public-facing site, covid19.klick.com.
It comes back to doing the right things, always. It pays off in spades.Lori Grant
“It comes back to doing the right things, always,” says Grant. “It pays off in spades.”
That values-driven approach continues to resonate in the market. North American revenue swelled 20% last year to an MM&M-estimated $345 million, from $287 million in 2018. Head count rose to 948 from 742 the year prior.
Notable additions included FCB Health veteran Rich Levy, who joined the firm in May 2019, as chief creative officer. He was followed by former Media Allegory president Dave Leitner (SVP, media), former WPP exec Dan Drexler, M.D. (managing director) and former Razorfish Health and Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness leader Carl Turner (chief brand strategy officer).
Arrivals during the first half of 2020 included Destry Sulkes, M.D., from Wunderman Thompson Health, as head of growth, and David Bowen, formerly of WPP Health & Wellness and Hill + Knowlton, as chief officer for policy and public affairs. Klick has also added five additional creative directors.
Finding talent remains a challenge. To that end, the agency refreshed its own corporate brand with the tagline, “There’s something different here.” As part of the effort, it put some of its own talent on display.
“Empathy, drive, trustworthiness, kindness — all that has led to a happy team and happy clients, who honor us with their business and that growth.” Grant says.
On the internal front, Klick organized its growing medical team into four streams (science and regulatory, medical strategy, payer and med-comms) to better delineate its four distinct offerings in the marketplace. The agency also christened two new practices: one for the initial phase of developing brand identities and another for rapid-prototyping.
Of the latter group, Grant notes that, “Our clients want innovation and agility that can allow them to get things into market quickly. One thing we see is that clients’ MLR teams have begun accepting more innovation and agility.”
On the creative front, Grant points to the agency’s 2019 Demand More For Migraine disease education effort on behalf of Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, whose CGRP drug Nurtec was approved this February and launched as COVID-19 raged. The campaign’s landing page includes patient-reported outcomes with migraines and a link to a migraine forecaster app.
Grant says that Klick’s work in pet care is best illustrated by its life/feline campaign, executed on behalf of animal health mainstay Zoetis. “As is often the case in animal health, the category doesn’t get the time and attention it deserves. More people are convinced of the therapeutic benefit of having a pet by their side in these days of social isolation and working from home,” she explains.
Looking ahead, Grant views the pandemic as an opportunity for Klick to continue to prove its mettle. “This is the ultimate test we’ve been preparing for,” she says. “When we think about 2020, we don’t see it as a time to pause but one of possibility. How do we help brands reach their potential in the most challenging of times?”
The best marketing we saw in 2019…
IKEA’s patient-centric ThisAbles campaign brought to life the company’s innovation in making furniture accessible. We also love that it stars the copywriter who helped develop the 3-D furniture adapter concept and who has cerebral palsy. — Lori Grant