One of a handful of independent agency networks taking a buy-and-build approach to supporting large pharmas and emerging biotechs, Fishawack Health has spent the last few years quite heavily involved in M&A. 

That strategy continued apace despite the pandemic. Scottsdale-based market-access shop Skysis, which Fishawack acquired in April 2020, increased the number of network members once again. It joined 2e and Dudnyk (both bought in 2019), Blue Latitude Health (2018) and Carling Communications (2017), not to mention several others that lack a North American presence, in the Fishawack stable.

The idea is not to have the five different companies touching different aspects of a launch, however. So last year the company reorganized and integrated its agency brands under one P&L and unified systems and platforms, something its new wolf-themed branding — think one cohesive “pack” — is meant to symbolize.

Fishawack Health

“Our DNA is bringing those companies together and winning the hearts and minds of the leadership team,” explains CEO Oliver Dennis. 

The size of Fishawack’s U.S. workforce jumped 14% to 812 people last year, from 713 in 2019 (excluding Minneapolis-based StoneArch, acquired this year). While that represents a lot of hands passing the proverbial baton, chief commercial officer Ross Toohey says it rarely feels that way from the client’s perspective.

“What we’ve been able to provide is a very boutique, very bespoke client experience, but with a huge bench of resources on tap,” he explains. 

To that point, when Toohey’s firm 2e joined the Fishawack fold two years ago, he found it intriguing — and unusual — that the network’s firms held onto their own mindsets and relationships. “Instead of breaking those apart, we fostered them,” he says. 

That not only lends the group a certain diversification — “we are very much a product of the way that we’ve bought,” Dennis notes — but the company believes it’s also a ticket to future growth. 

Revenue ticked up slightly in 2020, to $96.1 million from 2019’s take of $95 million. “When Dudnyk and 2e came into the fold and clients found out we now had a sister agency that was so steeped in rare disease, they wanted to hear about it,” Toohey recalls. He cites the launch of Alcon’s PanOptix lens and the Unravel disease-education campaign for Alnylam Pharmaceuticals as examples of work that came in through 2e and Dudnyk, respectively, and benefited from the added network horsepower. 

Other new assignments came from roster mainstays including AbbVie, Janssen, Novartis and Roche. New clients such as Amgen, Eli Lilly and Thermo Fisher Scientific rounded out the company portfolio.

In addition to a number of new leadership roles added amid the company-wide changes, the network brought in chief integration officer Ruth Percival from EA Technology; director of M&A Philip Hall from KPMG UK; and business solutions director Richard Bowyer from Cognizant Interactive.

Given how Fishawack changed shape in the wake of its agency additions, 2020 will ultimately be remembered as the year of rebranding the business, as well as building new leadership teams and setting KPIs. 

“All of those happened in tandem,” says Toohey. “It was super messy, but we’re very happy with the outcome.”

As MM+M went to press, Fishawack Health completed the acquisition of Closerlook. The addition bolsters Fishawack’s digital and analytics offering.

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The idea I wish I had…

Without a doubt, the vaccine response to COVID-19, which has transformed the public’s perception and understanding of what the pharmaceutical industry does. By championing the scientists behind the work, pharma has shown its human face. Who would have thought 18 months ago that the public would be so galvanized that vaccine FOMO would become an actual phenomenon? — Oliver Dennis