It’s been two years since GCG Marketing rechristened itself as Agency Habitat and one year since it moved into a converted warehouse north of Fort Worth’s Foundry District. So it seems fair to ask: What have been the early returns on the agency’s two big steps to reinvent itself?

According to CEO and president Neil Foster, they’ve been positive. The new brand, he reports, has clicked with clients and the new office has provided an ideal environment for fostering original thinking, even in the hybrid world.

“I made sure we had an architect who had never done an office before,” Foster says. “We worked with someone who had only done restaurants and bars in order to create a space where people would want to collaborate.”

Foster believes that the office’s open plan indirectly benefits clients, who stand to gain better thinking and work product if Agency Habitat can keep its people happy. That is also the focus of one of the agency’s new initiatives last year, the IDEAL task force (the acronym stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Awareness Leadership). Foster is pleased with its efforts. “We are a collection of radically different individuals,” he says, “who bring a lot of perspectives and backgrounds to the table and we want to make sure we harness that.”

The office’s hybrid approach to work has “worked well” in Foster’s words. “At this point we have people come in when they choose to come in,” he explains. “The combination of both is important. It is important to establish some sense of culture and that is harder when you are completely remote.”

While Agency Habitat’s 2021 revenue was flat vis-à-vis the year-ago period at $9 million, it was very much in line with the company’s projections.

“We didn’t expect it to be a growth year,” Foster says candidly. “It was more of a ‘sustain’ type of year. I didn’t expect a lot of moves in new business.”

That said, the agency picked up assignments from Veru, Journey Medical and Candela Medical North America — and they were different types of assignments than the ones traditionally handled by Agency Habitat/GCG.

“One of the things you see with a lot of these clients is that there is a DTC element,” Foster explains. “We still do the professional work — and we always will — but we have grown considerably in our consumer efforts.”

Agency Habitat’s expanded consumer efforts included a focus on brand management, covering everything from social media to full-on production. Foster believes that the firm’s in-house production capacity has been a draw for clients, saving them considerable time and money. Not surprisingly, Agency Habitat is looking to fill any number of production roles, especially ones related to editing and motion graphics.

Foster is bullish on the future, both for Agency Habitat and the industry writ large, but says that the pandemic’s impact will continue to be felt.

“To connect with customers without seeing them face-to-face, companies that are used to having large, robust sales forces will have to get more creative and more aligned with technology,” he predicts. “If they can do that, a lot of economies of scale will follow.” 

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Work from outside pharma you admire…

For the Paralympic Games, Toyota created Start Your Impossible and told the story about facing adversity through the eyes of the McKeever Brothers and Jessica Long. Working in healthcare, we don’t understand the words, “You
have a rare condition” and “There’s no treatment” from a patient’s perspective. Toyota connects to that emotion with this campaign. It inspires patients to reach beyond what’s possible, and in a way that is visually and intellectually stimulating. — Foster