While it’s always nice to land new business on your own, MicroMass Communications president Alyson Connor says 2019’s sweetest wins came in tandem with its Ashfield Healthcare Communications siblings. To that end, the agency claimed work from Eisai with an assist from its Ashfield Patient Solutions peers and snared an assignment from Kyowa Kirin in partnership with Cambridge BioMarketing.

“We’re still new in the acquisition, and those were two great opportunities that allowed us to test out and learn about our sister companies,” Connor says. “And we’ve gone on to pitch and win new business based on those relationships.”

All told, MicroMass added 12 new assignments in 2019, spurring a jump in revenue to an MM&M-estimated $32 million from an estimated $30.5 million in 2018. The growth came despite a few losses, including an ovarian cancer drug from Tesaro.

Victories included a new assignment from Stryker on joint replacement, which saw MicroMass create a patient experience that extends from pre-surgery to several months post-op. The agency also won indication launch work on the Sanofi/Regeneron injection for allergic diseases, Dupixent.

The momentum continued into 2020, with MicroMass claiming additional business from Merck, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Actelion. Connor notes with pride the agency’s recent successes pitching virtually via Zoom.


While the overall staffing level rose by just one full-timer, it was a significant one. Former VMLY&R executive director Rosanne Johnson joined MicroMass as EVP, a role in which she has been charged with optimizing relationships with existing clients, developing new business opportunities and forging customized solutions.

Several months into the new gig, Johnson is thrilled with her decision to depart a sizable New York agency for MicroMass, which is headquartered in North Carolina’s famed Research Triangle. “I’m incredibly impressed with the caliber of the people here and how they’re motivated by this commitment to improved patient experience,” she says.

That commitment, Connor says, should prove a major distinguishing factor in the eventual wake of the COVID-19 crisis. She is hopeful that the virtualization of business will nudge healthcare companies forward in their uneasy relationship with the digital world.

“Pharma is typically 10 years behind embracing technology — and this crisis is forcing everyone to have digital experiences, all the time,” Connor explains.

Johnson agrees, adding, “It’s almost impossible to have a conversation about patient experience that doesn’t involve technology in some way. Yes, marketing is about innovation and the ability to communicate differently. But it’s all enabled by technology, and that’s MicroMass’ reason for being: Behavioral science applied in a creative way through purposeful technology.”

While about 65% of MicroMass’ work is in the serious realm of oncology, Connor says the agency goes out of its way to keep the default office tone light and fun. One of the agency’s most clever and rewarding campaigns of 2019 unfolded after a staffer stumbled on a news item about a local animal hoarder. In its wake, MicroMass helped launch a GoFundMe effort to rescue about 70 local bulldogs, with the accompanying meme-worthy “Bulldogs Classified” campaign generating attention. It surpassed its fundraising goal in four days.

The best marketing we saw in 2019…

Humira. Despite being the market leader, it continues to excel in patient support and does a great job of presenting information clearly. The site also does a good job of tackling pricing — a confusing topic — and including general education on different kinds of insurance. — Rosanne Johnson