FCB Health New York’s leaders have more than their share to crow about in the wake of 2020’s myriad disruptions, including a 25% jump in revenue and 27 new assignments. But the achievement about which they’re most proud is the launch of an internal product, the patient experience platform YuzuYello.

Its debut came so early in the pandemic that most of the people who worked on it hadn’t yet stocked up on hand sanitizer. According to FCB Health Network chief commercial officer Michael Guarino, the launch had originally been scheduled for early in 2020. When COVID-19 hit, however, the urgency to get the platform into the world intensified.

“COVID didn’t just limit patients’ access to care; it cut it off entirely,” he says. “But chronic disease wasn’t going away because of the pandemic. We felt we had to go ahead and launch.”

FCB Health New York

Pulling off the launch in two weeks, before everyone had mastered Zoom, was a daunting yet motivating prospect, he adds. “We were helping more people manage chronic conditions, and [the ability to do that] was built into all projects and assignments.” 

FCB Health Network president and CEO Dana Maiman believes such efforts are what distinguish the agency (and the broader network) from the competition. In her mind, the YuzuYello rollout is emblematic of the need for today’s mega-firms to act more like product-driven companies than traditional ad agencies.

“We think of ourselves as a gigantic startup, because we’re always looking for ways to innovate,” she explains. “We’re tolerant of failures, so we can keep our test-and-learn approach going.”

Revenue jumped from an MM+M-estimated $280 million in 2019 to an estimated $350 million in 2020. Head count similarly spiked, from 874 people at the end of 2019 to 1,070 people a year later.

Significant hires at FCB Health New York included executive creative director Laura Mizrahi, who previously held the same role at Razorfish Health. “We do more broadcast work than any other health agency and she brings significant prowess in that area,” Maiman says.

Former W2O managing director Jenna Brownstein joined as group management director, while FCB Health mainstay Kathleen Nanda was elevated to chief creative officer. Maiman says that, all told, the agency invested $1 million in training its people in 2020, including working with an outside partner on inclusivity. 

The YuzuYello launch may have been the year’s splashiest development, but FCB Health New York also took the wraps off a new dynamic content practice, which marries data, media, creative and tech in order to enable better personalization. The firm is also proud of its pivot to full-service virtual productions, ranging from drop-kit shoots to large-scale studio and location ones. The agency has completed more than 85 virtual productions since March 2020. 

FCB Health Network chief product officer Graham Johnson says the company is enjoying this newfound ability to stretch, pointing to the opening of a new studio in Johannesburg. “People hear that and think, ‘That’s about finding lower prices in other markets.’ But it also gives us access to a greater breadth of talent and more diversity,” he explains.

It also adds flexibility. “We’re busy, but we don’t want to be in a situation where people are working 24 hours a day,” he continues, noting a continued need to reassess what represents healthy work/life balance in the remote-work era. “We need to operate in a follow-the-sun model.”

FCB Health New York

Johnson recently ran an innovation showcase, which featured technology-forward ideas, for agency members. The thinking behind it: That introducing people to Silicon Valley-worthy concepts will ultimately lead to breakthrough work.

By way of example, Johnson points to an FCB office in Brazil that has coordinated sales-rep training with Waze, the popular driving app. “If the rep needs to drive 18 minutes to see a client, he or she can access a helpful piece of content that’s less than 18 minutes long,” he explains.

For her part, Maiman notes that such endeavors are part of FCB Health’s ongoing effort to think more like an outsider. “We do not look at other agencies in the healthcare space. We look at other industries for inspiration,” she stresses.

At the same time, maintaining agency culture has proven a challenge during the pandemic, especially with regard to employees hired after the shift to remote work. Maiman says remote life has “forced us to think of new ways to bring people together, to bring our culture to life.”

On the client front, FCB Health New York claimed AOR engagements from the likes of Pfizer, Gilead, Sanofi Genzyme, Genentech, Gilead and Novartis. It also won assignments from Unilever, Senokot (for its over-the-counter laxatives), Avrio Health (for Betadine antiseptic) and UCB (for its epilepsy franchise).

Elsewhere, Maiman notes that three of the agency’s pro bono efforts, all underway prior to the invasion of COVID-19, were supercharged with relevance due to the pandemic. They included Disappearing Doctors, an effort to build awareness around physicians’ mental health and suicide prevention. As part of the agency’s longstanding relationship with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, it introduced Blood Vessels, the latest in its Blood Equality campaign that endeavors to reverse the ban on blood donations by gay and bisexual men.

But none reached the emotional intensity of The Trial for #ClinicalEquality, an initiative dedicated to achieving racial equity in clinical trials. The problem has existed for decades, but between the killing of George Floyd and the gaping disparities in COVID-19 outcomes, the project took on an unprecedented urgency.

“One of the amazing things about being in healthcare advertising is that you can throw yourself into a cause and see meaningful results,” Nanda says. “You can impact a person’s life in ways that you can’t in other mediums.”

Partners at the American Society of Clinical Oncology were quick to respond to the finished work. “They were moved beyond words. They said, ‘Thank God. Finally,’” Nanda recalls. “Those kinds of moments let you know you’ve lit something in someone that hasn’t been lit before. And we could not have done any of this powerful work if it hadn’t been for the depth of understanding, insight and empathy that represents how FCB Health works.”

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The idea I wish I had…

The work that FCB Chicago did for Walmart, Neighbors, was fantastic. The company mobilized immediately — in the very early days of the lockdown — and leveraged user-generated content and the beautiful voices of Walmart associates. The creative depicted not only what Walmart employees were feeling, but what we were all feeling. It captured the emotions of the moment in real-time. — Kathleen Nanda