Over the last decade, hardly a week passed without Intouch Solutions founder Faruk Capan fielding a call from a would-be buyer. He took the meetings and listened politely, but never seriously considered any offer.
“I loved being independent,” he says. “I didn’t want to be part of an organization that wasn’t meaningful.”
When Eversana reached out last year — it had done so once before — Capan expected history to repeat itself. The commercialization giant would state its case, Capan would reiterate that Intouch was not for sale, and that would be that.
Only this time Capan very much liked what he was hearing. “The question I always asked was, ‘Is there a better way to get where we want to go?’ I could never answer that with a yes,” he recalls. “This was different.”
Indeed, Eversana CEO Jim Lang came armed with a persuasive pitch that focused on the future of pharma commercialization. Too, he made several guarantees that Capan needed to hear: There would be no layoffs, cost-cutting mandates or vaporizations of agency brands.
Lang had also given plenty of thought to how the pieces fit together — how Intouch Group’s digital and marketing savvy would perfectly fill the single remaining gap in Eversana’s portfolio, and how Eversana’s commercialization might would allow Intouch to provide clients with an even more comprehensive offering.
The personal affinity between the two leaders didn’t hurt, either; Lang refers to Capan as “my brother from another mother.” They’re not completing each other’s sentences just yet, but it’s safe to say that there’s an uncommon degree of mutual respect.
The deal proceeded quickly from there. Rather than let its people hear about a potential sale through the grapevine, Intouch looped them in early in the process. It gave them the opportunity to ask questions (a popular one, Capan says, was, “Are you going to retire?”) and provided regular updates.
The response was uniformly positive. “We are all human beings. We all worry about jobs and titles and careers and families,” he adds. “Usually when an independent agency is bought out or merged or acquired, you don’t get a good reaction. But with Eversana’s reputation, we didn’t have that at all.”
Capan and Intouch leadership also took the unusual step of being transparent about the deal’s financial parameters. “Money, to be honest, was only the fourth or fifth factor for our people …. Everyone benefited one way or another from the acquisition, not just a few executives,” Capan says, adding that Intouch didn’t shed a single senior leader. “There was no ‘get the money and go.’”
Lang, of course, was doing some homework of his own. “I like to look for smaller cues,” he says, turning to Capan. “I never shared this with you, but I talked with the receptionist and a few other people and asked them, ‘Why do you like working here?’ The sense I got from those conversations was that this was a spectacular organization.”
In his conversations with Eversana’s people, Lang characterized Intouch as the missing piece of the puzzle. “We worked really, really hard on making clear the benefit of these two organizations coming together,” he explains. “There was a lot of, ‘OK, here are some capabilities in branding that we don’t currently have, and here is what they’re going to mean to your own career opportunities.’ You want people to hear those stories.”
The deal took some time to close and nobody was especially thrilled when a reporter got wind of the impending news late in the process. Beyond that, though, most of the headaches were decidedly non-migraine-grade.
“You always get things like, ‘We can’t get our salesforce to talk to your salesforce,’” Lang says. “What really mattered was that all our people felt it in their hearts and minds. We knew if we led with our vision and our big bold ambition — being able to simultaneously launch products around the globe for our clients, the other things we can do differently — all the other stuff would just become a minor annoyance.”
And so it was that, in December, Eversana formally acquired Intouch Group, creating one of the healthcare marketing world’s biggest, leanest and most forward-minded organizations. The mechanics of the deal are blessedly simple: Each of Intouch Group’s seven agency brands will remain intact, with names slightly tweaked (Eversana Intouch Solutions, Eversana Intouch Proto, Eversana Intouch International, Eversana Intouch Media, Eversana Intouch B2D, Eversana Intouch Oxygen and Eversana Intouch Seven). The same holds for Eversana Engage, now known as Eversana Intouch Engage.
Collectively, the companies generated $325.5 million in revenue during 2021, up 20% from $271 million in 2020 ($220 million from Intouch Group and $51 million from Eversana Engage). The newly united organization had 1,670 people under its roofs at the end of 2021, up from 1,386 (1,184 at Intouch Group and 202 at Eversana Engage) at the start of the year.
In the wake of the deal, the obvious question becomes: What’s next?
The company will formally unveil the Eversana Intouch moniker and branding this month — and it’s not a moment too soon for Capan, who says, “I believe in not having 10 different agencies with 10 different names.” Capan will become CEO of Eversana Intouch, with Lang remaining CEO of the Eversana mothership.
It goes without saying that both leaders have huge expectations for the months and years ahead. Lang predicts that Eversana Intouch will “shoot toward $400 million” in 2022, though he offers the usual caveat about overall marketplace volatility. Even as the company already works with most of the top 20 pharma giants and within every extant therapeutic category, Capan hints at opportunities yet to be seized within gene therapy and liquid biopsies.
“What I want to hear is, ‘Eversana Intouch changed the model. I want us to make a real difference,” Capan says, prompting Lang to nod enthusiastically.
“I share that same ambition,” he adds. “Instead of everyone saying sales and marketing in pharma is way behind every other industry, I want them saying that we’re the ones that helped pharma leapfrog all the others into that top position.”
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Work from outside pharma you admire…
The campaign launched by New York City following the enactment of Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law really stands out. Designed to celebrate diversity and acceptance, it ran in five Florida cities. It was a great idea executed in real-time. My favorite execution was “People say a lot of ridiculous things in New York. ‘Don’t say gay’ isn’t one of them.” Great concept. — Susan Perlbachs, chief creative officer, Eversana Intouch
From the June 01, 2022 Issue of MM+M - Medical Marketing and Media