Even though Harrison and Star president Tara Erickson only joined the agency in September, she has already overseen a handful of critical developments. Perhaps the most important was the restructuring of the agency’s omnichannel and digital offerings into Experience Labs, an omnichannel-minded unit group led by Paulette Robinson, the agency’s former EVP of operation service.
The new unit places Harrison and Star’s CX, UX and UI designers and its development team under a single umbrella. “Before, that expertise was split between departments, whether it was strategy or creative or tech,” Erickson explains.
Other notable personnel changes included the promotion of Daniel Jay to EVP, executive creative director and the departure of SVP, director of account excellence Leann Popelka. Staff size fell during 2021, from 260 to 220 full-timers, but the changes coincided with the debut of a sister agency brand: Harrison and Star Anywhere. As the name indicates, the 60-strong agency is fully remote; it has already produced work for Eisai and Merck.
“Once people understood we could look outside of New York, it opened up such an incredible talent pool,” Erickson says.
Client additions during 2021 included Pfizer Oncology, Foundation Medicine, Siemens Healthineers and Zymeworks. Revenue fell 4%, from $120 million in 2020 to $115 million in 2021. Erickson says the decline was due to “changes in client spending habits, with more organizations reprioritizing budgets to conform with the new normal of product promotion during a global pandemic.”
The last year was fruitful on the creative front, with the agency receiving kudos for its Descovy for PrEP campaign that incorporated work from the artist and AIDS awareness activist Keith Haring. 2021 also saw Harrison and Star push forward with its Color of Health effort aimed at addressing healthcare inequities.
While the agency has historically focused on professional promotion, it has made great strides in the patient realm over the last few years.
“We’re spending time diving into the relationships between HCPs and patients and what that means for our clients, and how we can bridge that dialogue,” Erickson explains. “Throughout my career, I’ve seen how much of a benefit it is to have multiple audiences all under one roof within the agency to make sure that the communication is seamless.”
As Harrison and Star looks to the months and years ahead, it is similarly focused on the continued evolution of its digital offering. And like so many other companies in the talent-squeezed healthcare business, the agency has bolstered its efforts to develop the people already in the building. This means providing more meaningful opportunities for career planning, whether via one-on-one mentoring or asking employees to draw up and reflect on their particular career timelines.
“We’re never just talking about business growth. We’re talking about the growth of our team as well,” Erickson says.
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Work from outside pharma you admire…
This would have to be the Always campaign #LikeAGirl. It was not only incredibly insightful, but the execution lived up to its potential. The creators made a complex topic simple and something we could all relate to. Bravo! — Erickson