Agency mergers aren’t easy under the best of circumstances. Amid a global pandemic, they have the potential to be employee-alienating, culture-disintegrating and client-disorienting.

McCann Health New Jersey took a look at the task at hand and said, in essence, bring it on. By early April 2022, it had not only successfully absorbed the venerable McCann Echo brand but also navigated its own integration into the newly constructed IPG Health mothership.

“Putting two cultures together during a year like 2021 — how do you do that?” asks McCann Health NJ president Jill Beene. “There’s no manual.”

The Echo merger was the trickier of the two. On one hand, the firms were physically proximate and neither served as a conflict shop (either for McCann Health in the NYC area or for the network). On the other, they found themselves in regular competition for talent, resources and clients.

“It didn’t make sense to have two,” Beene says. “But we couldn’t just smash two agencies together. We had to become one new company.”

To effect the necessary changes — in process, workflow, philosophy and everything else — Beene and her leadership team committed to what she calls “really radical transparency.”

“You think about questions like, ‘How can we work together if our processes are different? How can I count on everyone to have my back the way I could count on my legacy agency?’” she explains. “What you do is talk about it. When you get to know each other, you see more of yourself in other people than you might expect.”

The IPG Health creation presented many of the same challenges and solutions, only writ large. “What we learned was that we weren’t just a bunch of offices,” Beene continues. “We were actually a bunch of people who know and like and work well with each other.”

The results were telling. Amid the changes, McCann Health New Jersey excelled on the new-business front, adding AOR engagements with Novartis, Sandoz, Teva and Janssen; it added seven AOR engagements with Sanofi. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, given Echo’s integration, but McCann Health NJ started the year with 212 people under its umbrella and ended with 310. Revenue jumped 44% from an MM+M-estimated $45 million in 2020 to an estimated $65 million in 2021.

Central to the growth has been a keen focus on behavior change. It required some investment — social scientists are now a part of most agency teams — but it has paid off, especially in terms of more sharply defining the company’s offering vis-à-vis the competition.

“We had a solid-citizen sort of reputation,” Beene says. “Bringing these behavior change experiences to our customers has put us in a different place .… We don’t just have behavior change; we have the science behind how it works.”

As a result, McCann Health New Jersey finds itself in an enviable position: established as an expert in an area of need for most potential clients and with the resources of a superior parent organization at its disposal to boot.

“We’re primed to be the agency that we have always wanted to be,” Beene says. 

. . .

Work from outside pharma you admire…

“’The Next Rembrandt’ because I love how it bridges data and creativity. This campaign examined the entire collection of Rembrandt van Rijn’s work, studying the contents of his paintings pixel by pixel. It analyzed a broad range of materials like high resolution 3D scans and digital files, which were upscaled by deep learning algorithms to maximize resolution and quality. This extensive database was then used as the foundation for creating ‘The Next Rembrandt.’” — Bruno Abner, Chief Creative Officer of McCann Health New Jersey