When people talk about Klick Health, they tend to focus on the breadth of its capabilities. And really, why wouldn’t they?
Klick has traditional marketing and next-generation technology under its roof. It has a well-staffed programmatic media buying desk. It dove deep on data and analytics well before most of its agency-world peers boarded that bandwagon en masse. It does corporate reputation and digital transformation and OTC and DTC and CX and UX and … well, you get the point.
In 2021 alone, the company launched Klick Intelligence, a group designed to assess — in minute, actionable detail — the competitive dynamics of a given market or segment. It bulked up its clinical innovation offering via the introduction of a scientific innovation practice, which has tackled the ever-evolving problem of effectively communicating with HCPs. Then there’s the company’s new internal healthcare education practice, which has developed a curriculum as broad as anything offered elsewhere in the industry.
And how many companies primarily dedicated to medical marketing published a quartet of research papers in scholarly journals? Anyone who questions the hype around Klick’s thinking would be advised to check out “Effects of Nature Virtual Backgrounds on Creativity During Videoconferencing,” published by ScienceDirect in March. A few months before that, Klick chairman Leerom Segal and CEO Lori Grant were invited to Yale to speak about its approach and mindset around COVID-19.
But sometimes lost amid discussions of everything Klick can do is a sense of what the company is — and specifically, a sense of its humanity.
This manifested itself during the tumult of 2021 in what co-president Ari Schaefer calls “a relentless focus on our people.” Klick ended the year with 1,498 people in its full-time employ, up from 1,156 just 12 months prior, and Grant believes that a lion’s share of the company’s success is attributable to its intellectually and emotionally engaged staff.
“At the end of the day, they’re entrusting their careers to us, and that is a responsibility we don’t take lightly,” Grant says.
The process starts during the first moments of a prospective employee’s interview. “We want to get deep into their mindset. We want to know, ‘What can we unlock in you so that you are doing the best work of your career. What does that look like for you?’” Grant continues. “But then we don’t just take that answer. We actually help them bring it to life.”
With happy people come happy clients. Klick works with a majority of the pharma industry’s biggest organizations, on common maladies such as migraine headaches (for Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, maker of Nurtec) but also on rare conditions such as Peyronie’s disease (for Endo, which markets Xiaflex).
Many of its relationships are unconventional by industry standards. For instance, Klick partnered with Ontario-based hospital system Lakeridge Health on a medication dosage calculator designed to help physicians and pharmacists accurately calculate the appropriate amount of vancomycin needed to treat certain stubborn bacterial infections.
That assignment was personal for Grant. “Vancomycin is considered a drug of last resort for certain infections,” she explains. “My mother had one of those infections in the last part of her life, and they could not get the dosing right at the hospital.”
All told, Klick grew revenue 14% during 2021, from 2020’s estimated take of $421 million to an estimated $480 million. That sum places the company atop the MM+M Agency 100 for the sixth straight year.
In 2016, it became the first medical marketing organization to crack the $200 million revenue barrier; it was the first to blow past $300 million (in 2019) and $400 million (in 2020). Barring a calamitous back half of 2022, it will become the industry’s first $500 million agency this year.
But if you know anything about Klick, you know its people will spend about as much time touting the revenue milestone as you will reading this sentence. Yes, the company will break for a few minutes at some point to acknowledge its 25th birthday. But the company defines itself through the lens of what comes next, not what happened last week.
“The difference is in the way we’re authentically integrating our offerings so that they’re not simply A begets B begets C …. We’re integrating them in a way that gives them a different meaning,” Schaefer says.
Grant agrees, adding, “We’re playing the long game …. It’s about our entrepreneurial spirit, our hacker roots and outcomes over optics.”
That overarching philosophy is part of the reason, compared with nearly every organization in the business, Klick has the least difficulty attracting A-list talent. Does the company have a reputation of paying top dollar? Sure. But to a person, recent Klick arrivals point less to the perks than to the opportunity of playing for a winning team.
Here’s where we stop to recount Klick’s recent staff additions. Even confining the list to SVP-level staffers and above, it’s quite a haul: two managing directors (Hannah Davis and Tatiana Lyons), a chief transformation officer (Ryan Slipakoff), a global head of talent attraction (Deanna Pathak) and SVPs of corporate development (Bruce Chin), brand strategy (Sara Bamber and Christina Mullen), corporate reputation (Luke Perez), transformation/consulting (Jenna Mitby) and solutions and digital consulting (Eric Vacin). The hiring hot streak continued into 2022 with the addition of industry vet Bernardo Romero as maker, a role in which he’ll spearhead the agency’s creative storytelling and craft.
As for the remaining months of 2022 and beyond, Grant downplays the need for big-picture pronouncements. “There will always be unexpected things for us to tell you,” she promises.
One date that’s long been circled on the calendar is September 22, which will mark the return of the Klick Ideas Exchange (IDX). Dormant in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, the event will be headlined by President Barack Obama and other forward-minded thinkers from the worlds of science, technology and art.
“It’s going to be an amazing touchstone for us to get into the world again with some of those insights that come out of IDX,” Schaefer says.
Pressed again for a big-picture prediction or three, Grant says she anticipates more of the same: Klick serving as a prized commercialization partner for any and every health-adjacent organization.
“Here we are, 25 years in and we’re just getting started,” she says. “I think we’re going to say that exact same thing next year: We’re just getting started.”
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Work from outside pharma you admire…
We loved the City of Chicago’s Boards of Change campaign to increase voter turnout from disenfranchised Chicagoans. The idea of transforming plywood used to board up store windows during Black Lives Matter into work-of-art voting booths was both powerful and meaningful. The integration across outdoor and social media, interactively directing people to voting locations, was nothing short of inspiring — and, no doubt, why a record number of people went to the polls. — Rich Levy, chief creative officer