It’s a challenge every full-service agency has faced to some extent during the last half-decade: How do you maintain the breadth of your offering while infusing data and analytics throughout every department and function?

DDB Health doesn’t claim to have cracked the code. But its successful 2021 suggests that one way to attack the challenge is by placing data at the core of all strategic approaches. 

“We’ve invested tremendously in our experience team in the last couple of years and that has been aimed at helping our clients move toward omnichannel,” explains managing partner, director of strategic services Eileen Yaralian, noting that some clients are further along the adoption continuum than others. “We want to be able to move them along through this suite of strategic specialists, and it all starts with data.”

To that end, DDB Health has started to assign a data-savvy strategic lead to every brand upon which it works. According to CEO and president Jennie Fischette, doing so “optimizes the client’s budget and, I think, creates an overall better output for the brand and what we’re trying to achieve for it.”

When asked about other 2021 highlights, Fischette points to successful navigation of the shift to a hybrid work
environment and a fine new-business track record. Indeed, the firm had a particularly strong year on the latter front, adding assignments from Pfizer, Merck, Genentech, AstraZeneca and Taysha Gene Therapies. They join agency mainstays Bristol Myers Squibb, Roche and Amgen on DDB’s client roster.

Revenue nudged upward by just under 4%, from 2020’s take of $62.7 million to 2021’s take of $65 million.

“Last year the team really nailed it,” Fischette says. “We’re able to work with really innovative clients that are bringing medicine that is changing disease states to market. And that means we have been able to offer people really wonderful opportunities to be able to grow their careers here.”

The agency similarly grew the size of its staff, from 194 at the end of 2020 to 208 at the end of 2021. Executive-level hires included SVP, creative director art Eddy Rodriguez (who arrived from Greater Than One) and SVP, group strategy director Eric Cale (from Scout Health).

Managing partner, executive creative director Michael Schreiber is enthused about both additions. “Eddy was brought in because of his creative expertise in every media and in customer experience. He has got a strong art background, strong digital background and strong UX experience, which is something we were looking to boost on the creative side.”

As for Cale, his post is scheduled to include oversight of brand strategy and customer experience.

“His history in rare disease, including gene therapies, is a huge asset to us, as is his oncology experience,” Yaralian says. “His understanding of how to reach specialists and how to motivate them to create change is his sweet spot.” 

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Work from outside pharma you admire…

Thanks to democratized media, there are more creative outlets than ever. Less can be more, and strange can be effective. Reddit’s five-second Super Bowl ad is a good example. What seemed to be a car promo, glitched and cut to some text before shifting to galloping horses. The ad was so confusing, people thought it was an accident. At an event like the Super Bowl, that will absolutely hijack people’s attention — and it resulted in record-breaking Reddit logins and shares. — Michael Schreiber, managing partner, executive creative director