When asked to share a moment that encapsulated DDB Health’s 2020, managing partner and executive creative director Michael Schreiber instantly brings up a virtual pitch for a pediatric product.

“Someone’s child walked in front of the camera to offer cookies to their mother,” Schreiber recalls. “But it worked out perfectly, because it was in sync with the story we were telling about children. What might have been a devastating interruption in prior years was just a recognition of the reality of life in 2020, and the perfect coda to our presentation.”

DDB Health emerged from the challenging year in fine shape. Revenue grew by 10%, to $62.7 million from $57 million in 2019. Staff size increased from 181 people on hand at the end of 2019 to 194 a year later.

DDB Health

Managing partner and director of strategic services Eileen Yaralian believes that the agency’s approach to strategy and creative further distanced it from the pack during 2020. “We ground everything we do in the idea that there are urgent health needs out there and that we need to take bold action,” she explains. Many of those needs fall in the realms of rare disease and oncology, which she considers the agency’s “sweet spots.”

While a hefty percentage of DDB Health’s 2020 growth came from existing clients — roster mainstays include Bristol Myers Squibb, Sanofi and Amgen — the firm succeeded on the new-business front with assignments from Sarepta Therapeutics, Roche and Novartis. Yaralian points to the Sarepta work, on a gene therapy designed to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy, as a particularly encouraging addition.

“It’s in line with our efforts to be on the cutting edge of science,” she notes.

Overall, DDB Health considers itself fortunate to ply its craft within the expansive world of health and wellness. “As opposed to our consumer counterparts within [parent company] Omnicom, health companies doubled down during COVID-19,” explains president Jennie Fischette. “We made a quick move to digital execution to fill the white space that was left by representatives not being able to go into offices. We benefited from it financially, but we also had to expand services to meet the current needs of our customers.”

To that end, DDB Health further honed its ability to reach multiple customer targets for many of its client brands. “Whereas before, you had a sales rep going into the office meeting with various customers, now you need to use data to identify and reach specific audiences,” Yaralian explains. “We had to tailor our approach to reach them through these bite-sized communications.”

Fischette believes many of the changes prompted by COVID-19 are here to stay, particularly the newfound awareness around work/life balance.

“For us, it’s not about where people do their work, it’s that they get their work done,” she says. “We want to make sure they have the opportunity of the office if that works best for them, but also the opportunity to work from home. We plan on a hybrid option being our future work state.”

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The idea I wish I had…

An intriguing integrated campaign for a rare disease called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. It included an immersive [Amazon] Alexa skill, called Ella the Jellyfish, aimed at pediatric patients as well as their parents and larger families. They built it with patients themselves and the results were both really heart-warming and sweet. You could see the children benefiting from it. — Jennie Fischette