Disbelief is how Dana Maiman describes her initial reaction to the news that FCB Health New York, the agency she led for many years, was altering its go-to-market strategy.

The change came in the form of last July’s elimination of the network layer that had separated FCB Health NY and its FCB Health brethren from its fellow Interpublic-owned McCann Health siblings. All of those shops now roll up under the new IPG Health banner.

Not that the birthing of IPG Health was a surprise. “I had heard about it for so many years and always had a seat at the table and was very much a part of all the conversations,” recalls Maiman, who leads the new entity as CEO. “Different priorities would intervene and it didn’t get implemented. The reason everybody kept coming back to it is that it really makes sense.”

The delay certainly hasn’t arrested FCB Health NY’s growth. In 2021, revenue grew 6% to an MM+M-estimated $370 million, from $350 million in 2020. Staff count rose from 1,070 to 1,320.

What’s notable is how FCB Health NY achieved that growth. There were no bolt-on acquisitions, nor any accounting gymnastics (such as including revenue from conflict shops).

And the formation of IPG Health positions the agency for yet more growth. According to IPG Health chief commercial officer Mike Guarino, the agencies are now officially interconnected and can interrelate to a greater extent.

“They now have access to each other in a way that’s very seamless and matches the way we all thought agencies and networks should work, which is as partners,” he explains. “We have enabled that in a very fundamental way.”

All of this is meant to unlock organic growth. A focus on growing with existing clients — and especially extending them into new channels and disciplines — is what has driven much of FCB Health NY’s recent success. It accounted for a hefty portion of the agency’s 27 new business wins, including AOR engagements with Pfizer, Novartis, Sanofi, Alexion Pharmaceuticals and Ono Pharmaceutical.

Along those lines, IPG Health’s structure is designed to facilitate the access of FCB Health NY clients to McCann Health’s complementary expertise, and vice versa. One area where this will likely come in handy: The FCB Health agencies have always been a bit more North America-focused, while McCann Heath has an enviable global footprint.

“We’re now able to provide this global experience for our clients and their brands as well as for our people,” Maiman notes.

Conversely, adds FCB Health NY chief creative officer Kathleen Nanda, McCann Health had not invested as much in areas such as product design. “We started investing heavily in our XD [experience design] offering two years ago,” she recalls. “We saw the role of the digital creative space becoming absolutely vital to how brands will exist in our communications ecosystem.”

At FCB Health NY, XD sits in the creative group and partners with each account director/copywriter/artist triad to create high-level experiences for brands. For example, take the use of virtual assistants for Paratek Pharmaceuticals’ antibiotic Nuzyra, whose “synthetic human” is now available to answer questions 24/7.

Last year FCB Health NY expanded the XD practice, adding teams in South Africa and integrating new people. One of these was Elise Whitaker, who joined in December from Orbita.ai to become the agency’s director of conversational experiences. Other applications the agency foresees stemming from its voice specialty include patient support, disease education and virtual reps.

The XD group also added its first blind staffer, who is helping shape experiences that resonate with people who have low vision capability. Meanwhile, FCB Health NY is building an accessibility practice to ensure that every experience it creates is inclusive to all, regardless of disability status. 

“If you think about what the Americans with Disabilities Act did for brick-and-mortar, the WACG [web content accessibility guidelines] can do that for web and digital,” Nanda explains. “We have been very out in front of this because there have been situations where companies and brands had litigation against them for not being accessible to all parties.”

FCB Health NY also launched a mar-tech group, focused on enabling omnichannel strategies for clients, and Nanda recruited several creatives to her burgeoning department. Two of these are FCB boomerangs: executive creative director Bryan Gaffin, who rejoined from WildType, and group creative director Dave Gehrke, who returned after a stint at Real Chemistry’s 21Grams. 

Other FCB Health NY hires included former BBDO NY creative directors Megan Williams and Arun Nemali, both of whom are now group creative directors; former WildType creative John Kelly, now creative director; and former Real Chemistry exec Jenna Brownstein, now group managing director. 

The IPG Health realignment spawned other personnel changes. Charlie Buckwell became chief medical communications officer of the new organization and Lisa DuJat became chief talent officer, joining Maiman and Guarino on the leadership team.

Maiman and Guarino say the IPG Health unification positions the company exceedingly well for whatever comes next. To that point, they’re as intent on winning additional assignments from their bellwether big pharma clients as they are on landing business from biopharma companies gearing up to launch their first asset.

Maiman understands that it can sometimes seem “counterintuitive” for these smaller and younger entities to partner with an agency the size of FCB Health NY. Then again, she muses, playing the role of the naive brand manager whose eyes are finally opened, “‘I guess the little independent group down the road doesn’t have a group focused on WACG and access guidelines.’ That’s when they say, ‘Oh, I guess that’s why it makes sense to partner with the larger agencies.’”

Even consumer healthcare companies have found a willing partner in FCB Health NY. Nanda and Maiman point to recent DTC work the agency did for Avrio Health’s OTC products Colace, Senokot and SlowMag brands.

“We’re able to run the gamut,” says Maiman. “This is where the power of big translates into being better and providing what’s best for our clients and brands, and our people.” 

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Work from outside pharma you admire…

Michelob’s Ultra Courtside was a brilliant solve to a problem no one would’ve anticipated having: NBA games played with no fans. It used cutting-edge technology to digitally transport fans into the bubble. There was even real-time player, fan and broadcaster interaction. How to get virtually courtside? Scan Michelob Ultra bottles to win virtual tickets to games, putting the brand at the center of it all. An amazing idea, brilliantly executed. — Kathleen Nanda, chief creative officer