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During the chaos of the early days of the pandemic, CMI Media Group and Compas learned quickly to adapt what agency leaders characterize as an ears-to-the-ground approach.

As lockdowns spread across the globe and patients were challenged to see physicians in person, the very notion of how healthcare would be delivered was upended. CEO and president of CMI Media Group Susan Dorfman believes this gave the organization an opportunity to become more proactive in its outreach.

“We started to do a lot of observational research and primary research to get a sense of how physicians were feeling and how patients and consumers were feeling overall,” she explains.

CMI Media Group and Compas

That led to secondary data analysis that tracked responsiveness to different forms of media. “At the time, we were publishing a lot of information and we saw that patients as well as healthcare professionals wanted to hear from pharma — not just about COVID-19, but also about their own conditions and what they should and shouldn’t do,” she continues. “We started to get thousands of emails from pharmaceutical reps from all over the world, asking what alternative channels they could use to provide information to physicians.”

That led to the development of Proact Rep, a new product that CMI Media Group and Compas will officially launch this year. It’s a new iteration of the agency’s current Proact technology, which aims to change how pharma reps engage with HCPs.

Amid it all, the organization renamed and rebranded itself. The idea, executive chairman Stan Woodland told MM+M earlier this year, was to highlight that “CMI Media Group is much more than the CMI from years ago …. CMI is more representative of the group of capabilities and the access we have to resources.” 

The company had a fine year on the financial front, growing revenue from $144.6 million in 2019 to $173.4 million in 2020, a 20% jump. The company’s client roster includes a host of media-centric assignments from Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Bristol Myers Squibb, Regeneron and AstraZeneca.

Head count rose from 562 full-timers to 715, with EVP, media investment, CMI Media Group Joe Warren among the new hires. Chief business development officer of Compas John Donovan says Warren’s addition was a part of the company’s continued “expansion in our healthcare consumer offering,” noting he will spearhead the agency’s TV, print, radio and digital investments. Warren previously served as managing partner at MediaCom.

Despite the pandemic-year growth, both Dorfman and Donovan acknowledge that the awful and unprecedented set of circumstances wore everyone down. “It’s been a crazy hard year, mentally, emotionally and physically,” Dorfman says. The silver lining, they add, came in the form of increased patience and greater empathy for the situations of their colleagues and clients.

“It’s been difficult to be on Zoom all day long, but it’s also been good to see people’s families and pets, and to see people in a different light,” Donovan says. “It’s really helped improve some of our interpersonal relationships.”

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The idea I wish I had…

As the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, many white people wanted to help but were not sure what to do. The Choice, created by Grey for Procter & Gamble, offered guidance on positive first steps. Importantly, it is part of a larger campaign that takes on racism from many different angles. It’s an example of how brands can show their stance on social issues and support their customers. — Susan Dorfman