Since its founding nearly 25 years ago, Spectrum Science has been regarded as one of the go-to communications and PR shops for health-minded clients such as AbbVie, Medtronic and the American Diabetes Association. But on the heels of a 2018 restructuring, the agency has recalibrated its approach and bulked up its integrated offering.

“It was about getting us to a place where we do more work spanning more disciplines,” says Spectrum owner and CEO Jonathan Wilson. “We’ve added advertising people. We have a very diversified staff with lots of new areas — insight, planning, research.” To wit, roles added during the last calendar year include chief creative officer (filled by longtime Spectrum exec Justin Rubin), EVP, interwoven strategy (new hire Lauren Heinemann) and SVP, clinical trial recruitment (Klaira Simon).

The pivot comes in response to a changing set of market conditions — and certainly Spectrum isn’t the only agency to attempt such a shift in recent years. That said, there’s reason to believe Spectrum is considerably better positioned to make it work.

For one thing, the company has always leaned in to its scientific and medical expertise. Also, its relationships with any number of pharma and health-tech A-listers — Pfizer, Vertex Pharmaceuticals and recent addition Samsung, on its biosimilars portfolio — gives it quite the head start.

“You have traditional advertising agencies trying to be more integrated and traditional PR agencies trying to do more creative work, but nobody has made it work in a way that accommodates the needs of clients,” Wilson says.

The agency is confident about sticking the landing. “There’s a little bit of mystery around Spectrum and our secret sauce. People want to beat us or work with us,” says agency president Michelle Gross.

Wilson agrees, adding, “We’ve got a killer instinct and swagger as well. We might not always be the safe bet in a pitch, but we’ll challenge you from a strategy and creative perspective.”

Revenue was up a tick in 2019, to $33.9 million from $32.9 million, as the new vision took hold. Head count held steady at 116 full-timers.

As for what comes next, Wilson is the rare agency leader who dispenses entirely with predictions about growth and breaking new therapeutic/geographic/functional ground. “Honestly, growth doesn’t seem to matter much right now,” he says. “We all just want to get to a place where we can get teams back into the office feeling safe and not hemmed in.”

That is likely why, when asked to identify the recent work of which he’s most proud, Rubin points to Spectrum’s “Beat the Sit Out of COVID-19” campaign. It launched in April to encourage compliance with stay-at-home orders.

“In a world that’s in chaos, we can sit at home,” Rubin says. “It’s one of the only actions we can take and all of us have a responsibility to do it. The idea is, everything that’s worth living for is worth sitting for.”

The best marketing we saw in 2019…

The Imaginary Friend Society from the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation — stellar insight, writing and execution. Synergy Pharmaceuticals printed classic novels on toilet paper rolls to educate HCPs on chronic idiopathic constipation. And Teva’s Hairspray tugged at the heartstrings to make us truly feel the love from caregivers. — Justin Rubin