Since its rebranding in 2018, Spectrum Science has endured a few flat revenue years. But owner and CEO Jonathan Wilson remains unfazed.

After assuming full ownership of the science-centric agency in the summer of 2018, Wilson focused on foundation-building. The goal: to grow Spectrum from a PR-focused shop into a fully integrated marketing and communications agency with a broad scope of work.

“We grew rapidly up to 2018, and in 2019 and 2020 we were flat,” Wilson says. “But I think that speaks to how we took our time to really peel back and rebuild the company. We focused on building something that we see as unique in the marketplace.”

Spectrum Science

While the pandemic threw revenue expectations out the window — at $32.9 million, Spectrum’s 2020 take declined less than 1% from 2019’s $33.1 million — the agency doubled down on its people. This resulted in a slate of hires, with the agency ultimately finishing the year with 120 staffers on hand, up four full-timers from 116 at the end of 2019.

Additions included SVP, brand strategy Malcolm MacKenzie (formerly at Juice Pharma); SVP, program management Rory Leslie (GSW); SVP, paid media Chad Childress (KPI); SVP, clinical trial recruitment Leslie Ives (Parexel); SVP, art group creative director Sindhu Jumani (BGB Group) and SVP, art group creative director Darryl Kluskowski (BGB Group). The agency also introduced former Syneos exec Dan Zaret as COO and launched its medcomms offering with former New World Media exec Karen Langenberg as SVP, scientific strategy.

While lots of agencies are making moves toward fuller integration, Wilson argues that Spectrum’s approach is unique, in that it’s building from the ground up. “We’re doing it by acquiring talent rather than by acquiring agencies,” he notes. 

Spectrum’s strategy may be paying off. In the second half of 2020, the agency added 10 assignments, some in categories the agency had never pitched before. “We’re now pitching as a medcomms firm, as an ad firm, as a PR firm, as a public affairs firm, as a CTR firm,” Wilson explains. “We are pitching against competitors in all those different areas and we’re winning.” 

Among 2020’s new client additions were diagnostic company Foundation Medicine (for consumer AOR work), Glaxo-SmithKline (for global vaccine R&D), Regeneron (for global development) and biotech company Alector (for disease state awareness education and clinical trial enrollment). Spectrum also grew its relationships with longstanding clients Takeda (on a global AOR engagement in organ transplant) and Neurocrine Biosciences (for tardive dyskinesia treatment drug Ingrezza). 

The year’s biggest win for Wilson, however, was that Spectrum weathered the pandemic without any layoffs or salary reductions — and bonuses were paid in early 2021 as originally planned. As a new way to invest in junior talent, the agency also launched a fellowship program for college grads.

“When COVID hit, it was this unknown world. You were thinking, ‘Are we going to have a business in a few months?’” Wilson explains. “Being able to carefully manage the business and reward our staff for all the great, hard work that they did was the real victory.” 

. . .

The idea I wish I had…

Unfinished Votes sent a powerful message to vote for candidates who support gun safety measures. The use of AI to bring Parkland shooter victim Joaquin Oliver back for one last video message to end gun violence is unexpected, profound and true. — Jonathan Wilson

An earlier version of this story misspelled Alector’s name and added an extra company to its work.