While many agencies had to create a work-from-home plan from scratch in March 2020, Havas Health Plus — referred to internally as The Plus — already had a blueprint in place.

In an uncanny bit of foresight, the agency implemented a “First Fridays” work-from-home scheme in 2019. It also slowly phased in virtual work and hired people who rarely, if ever, saw the inside of its New York City offices.

That’s one of the reasons The Plus transitioned into pandemic life with relative ease, resulting in what associate managing director Piera Andel characterizes as “one of our strongest years ever … We were heads down, focused on our clients and on our evolving client needs, and building out and expanding our Studio Plus.”

The agency finished 2020 with seven AOR engagements and five project-based ones on its rolls, up from seven and two, respectively, at the year’s outset. Andel notes that much of the growth came from existing clients.

The year’s successes can also be traced to the decision to add a third executive to The Plus’ management team, with associate managing director Tayla Mahmud arriving from Razorfish Health in the middle of the year. That makes Havas Health Plus  one of the very few agencies to be led by a trio of women: Mahmud, Andel and president and chief creative officer Allison Ceraso.

Mahmud credits the agency’s ability to pivot to the fact that each woman on the management team brings something completely different to the table. This, she believes, creates a balance that works extremely well for the company and its clients.

“Allison knows the network; she knows Havas through and through,” Mahmud explains. “Then Piera and I bring fresh perspective from our backgrounds. It’s both our experience and that perspective and the willingness to disagree sometimes and come up with better solutions that makes it work.” 

Those solutions include programs designed to keep remote employees engaged and excited, such as “What’s Your Plus,” which launched in Q4. The program gives every employee at The Plus the freedom to pursue a passion project.

“Some of the ‘What’s Your Plus’ ideas are yielding really great work with Stony Brook Hospital’s children’s and pediatric oncology wards,” Ceraso reports, noting that The Plus’ employees are pursuing partnerships that could eventually turn into paid engagements. “Some of the ideas are meant to help drive growth, but also allow us to do a little bit of giving back at a moment when the world needs us to – and in a space that I think we all feel indebted to.”

MM+M estimates The Plus’ revenue held steady at $42.5 million in 2020, with work on behalf of Merck and Sanofi Genzyme (“probably what we could call our anchors,” Ceraso says) leading the charge. “The majority of our growth was fueled by the needs that were accelerated as a result of COVID,” she adds.

Much of The Plus’ new work came in the form of what Ceraso calls “a massive increase” in social media utilization, uptake and engagement. “It was across the board and across consumer customer types — HCP, DTC, patients — but it was also across brands and brands that had never engaged in social that way,” she explains.

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The idea I wish I had…

Widen the Screen was a platform from Procter & Gamble that brought serialized content creation, talent development, entertainment and purpose together to address the systemic bias and inequality in advertising and media. The campaign was inspiring in message and empowering to Black creators to make, share, and broaden the view of the images we see. — Tayla Mahmud