Independent agency Flywheel continued its upward trajectory during 2020, growing just over 11% (to $20 million from $18 million in 2019) and adding another 10 full-timers to its roster (to finish the year with 90 people under its roofs). It’s growth that managing partner Dave Miller says stems from clients wanting an agency that is immersed in and integrated with their own marketing teams.

But Miller believes it’s also attributable to a new, pandemic-era rethinking about the notion of client engagement. “When you have gene and cell therapies and treatments that engage a whole treatment team — from diagnostic to therapeutic — you have these increasingly complex interactions,” he explains. “Having a partner who can navigate all of those dialogues and help enable the implementation of a new therapy is essential.”

Miller believes Flywheel has adapted smartly to the new reality. “Clients know we can span that full spectrum of audiences for them and facilitate those linkages and connections between everybody,” he adds.


Half the company’s growth during 2020 came from existing clients such as AbbVie (Flywheel works on its oncology products), Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Regeneron, Sanofi Genyzme, Lungevity, Agilent Technologies and Otsuka. The agency also worked on the launch of Eisai sleep drug Dayvigo and pushed forward in cell therapy via its work with Gamida Cell. Overall, Flywheel increased its number of AOR engagements to eight and project-based ones to 30, up from seven and 28 the year prior. 

“As people are looking to shift behavior — whether in a medical communications setting or a promotional scientific dialogue, and whether it’s with an internal group of colleagues or within a patient community — being able to deliver communications and understand how people learn and adapt and change is essential,” Miller explains. “A lot of the time in the agency business, people think about communications only. But a lot of our work, especially in the COVID-19 era, is not only about providing brand experiences and messages, but also providing tools and resources to facilitate dialogue.” 

Miller says he expects Flywheel’s growth to continue in 2021 and beyond due in large part to what he characterizes as “a culture of innovation.” It has thrived during the pandemic, he says, due to a shift in mindset: There’s a keen need to take additional risks and explore new options, since existing models simply didn’t apply during the pandemic.

“Our organizational model is small, smart teams. What we really celebrate is the diversity and spirit and intelligence that everybody brings to their groups,” he says. “During 2020 we found ways to connect and continue to create a rich environment for innovation and productivity. We all had to push people to try new things — maybe more so than some people would do on their own — but at the end of the day it was good, clean fun.”

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The idea I wish I had…

In the pandemic, caring for your community and creating new experiences for engagement are essential to advancing a brand. Lego did a fantastic job with its #LetsBuildTogether campaign. I love how they invested in resources to support their builders, parents and kids alike, with resources and connections to make everyday life a little bit brighter. — Miller