Following the February 2020 introduction of identity resolution platform Merkury ID, Merkle Health spent the rest of the year transforming into a full-on customer experience management specialist. And before long, it had several newly acquired resources at its disposal.

The Merkle mother ship snapped up four firms during the year: marketing automation agency Digital Pi; people-based identification and data services technology firm 4Cite; audience planning and targeting shop Media Storm; and digital analytics and conversion optimization specialist Outfox.

The deals were designed to help the company expand its ambitions — not just in health, but in the media, entertainment and retail segments, according to SVP, practice health lead Jane Portman.

Merkle Health

Merkle Health saw revenue jump 11% to $128 million in 2020 from $115 million in 2019. To a roster that already included work for Takeda, Eli Lilly and CVS Health, the agency added assignments from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Becton Dickinson, Boston Children’s Hospital, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Alexion. It also picked up significant business from Galderma (“a multi-year media AOR deal,” per Portman) and Seagen (as digital/tech AOR for the company’s growing oncology portfolio).

Work that fell off Merkle Health’s balance sheet included a large-scale analytics and measurement consulting project with GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer healthcare division that did not carry through the year.

Among the year’s biggest triumphs was the expansion of the agency’s relationship with Walgreens. While Merkle Health claimed its first business from the pharmacy giant in 2019, the partnership expanded in 2020 to includeWalgreen’s digital personalization efforts. 

“We’re currently helping them implement strategies around how they can be more nimble and create a better, more personalized customer experience for consumers,” Portman notes.

The Walgreens work also included a COVID-19 “vaccine journey launch,” which provided information about what an individual consumer’s journey might look like depending on age, risk factors and other personally identifiable information. 

Amid it all, Portman reports the agency staffed up during 2020. Head count grew from 490 full-timers at the end of 2019 to 494 at the end of 2020. Merkle Health filled both short- and long-term personnel gaps by tapping 185 contractors for a range of digital projects. 

In the end, Merkle Health’s customer focus helped the agency weather 2020’s myriad disruptions, Portman says. The firm’s efforts on behalf of clients included the creation and distribution of weekly COVID newsletters focusing on decision-making strategies.

“We held webinars, panel discussions and intimate roundtables providing information and ideas, so that our clients could make easier decisions and feel more secure in the uncertain environment,” she continues. “We went above and beyond.”

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The idea I wish I had…

Nike’s You Can’t Stop Us campaign hit everything: diversity, courage, perseverance and humanity. It also spanned the full spectrum of emotions for me, from sadness to encouragement to joy. — Jane Portman