Why is McCann Health New York (and, for the record, McCann Health New Jersey) getting its own profile for the first time this year? In large part because last July, Interpublic Group merged its two health networks, FCB Health and McCann Health, into IPG Health. The move created a massive, centralized unit of 45-plus agencies around the globe, with longtime FCB leader Dana Maiman as CEO and all agency brands retaining their names and identities.

The move has gone over well with McCann Health NY, long the flagship agency brand of the McCann Health network. “We’re part of a whole larger community and we’re using the expanded resources and capabilities to continue the impressive growth we’ve had over the last few years,” says agency president Matthew Silver. 

Internally, little has changed: McCann Health NY remains a do-it-all agency that supports brands across their entire life cycle. “Our capabilities and expertise are focused on owning a brand, connecting the communication and creative and strategic services across all key stakeholders,” Silver reports.

Revenue increased just under 13% last year, to an MM+M-estimated $90 million from last year’s estimate of $80 million. Head count jumped as well, from 300 full-timers at the start of 2021 to 325 at the end of it. The firm serves as agency of record for all 28 of its client engagements. 

Among McCann Health NY’s best-regarded work was a pro-bono campaign, a plea to end gun violence on behalf of  the nonprofit Change the Ref. Titled Unfinished Votes, it employed AI in a video that brought a 17-year-old killed in the 2018 Parkland, Florida, shootings back to life. 

“It was an astonishing technical feat,” says chief creative officer Stephanie Berman. “When you’re doing that kind of AI, you usually draw on decades of footage of, say, a politician or celebrity. In this case, there wasn’t much footage because he was so young. We had to reimagine how to do AI.”

Such work reflects McCann Health NY’s commitment to going above and beyond. Silver is especially proud of two internal programs: One Is For Good (“which means giving our teams the opportunity to bring forth ideas to make the world a better place”) and Plus One (“which means always bringing one additional idea, deliverable or solution to the table when we’re working with clients”). 

Chief strategy officer Daryl Somma DiSalvo is thrilled with the Unfinished Votes recognition, but wants to make sure that the company doesn’t end up “sounding like the AI agency.” Nonetheless, she highlights its Empathy Engine, which uses AI to analyze textual data (such as written transcripts) to drive connection and meaningful messaging for brands.

It goes without saying that McCann Health NY works with a host of large pharma companies, including Janssen, Novartis, Sanofi, AstraZeneca and Alkermes. At the same time, the agency has upped its reputation in recent years among smaller organizations such as Cerevel, Sarepta Therapeutics, Arcus BioSciences and Krystal Biotech. Silver touts the agency’s Sarepta work on a gene therapy that could treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

On the personnel front, McCann Health NY added EVP, executive creative director Jorge Munoz and EVP, group management director Kathleen Gillooly, previously with IPG Health siblings Solve(d) and Area 23. 

Berman points to Gillooly as “a good example of the proactive career management that we’re passionate about across the IPG Health network.” Along those lines, Berman led last year’s launch of HealthPharm, a 13-part program to help people new to pharma develop their skills.

The pandemic prompted other changes, even as it wreaked its share of havoc. “At times it’s been incredibly stressful because we’re trying to do everything and more,” Silver acknowledges. “But that extra pressure often results in wonderful work.”

To support short-staffed clients, McCann Health NY has occasionally embedded its own employees at client locations. “We’re acting as a real partner, not just an agency that delivers the communication plan. We understand their business and know how to help set them up for success,” Berman says.

As for challenges in connecting with its own staff, McCann Health NY has made its executive leadership team (ELT) accessible to all members of the organization. A rotating Friday email is written by one of the six ELT members to convey agency updates and the writer’s personal interests alike.

“It helps people identify with us as humans. I’m the dad of two girls, so I did dad jokes,” Silver says. (Pressed for an example, he offers up: “What’s brown and sticky? A stick.”)

Biweekly ELT office hours give everyone a chance to hang out (via Teams) and air complaints or compliments. “It’s cool if you just want to talk about what show you’re watching or a book you’re reading or a podcast you’re listening to,” says DiSalvo.

As for the future of the McCann Health NY workplace, the agency has no plans to pull back on its flexible work policies.

“We’re giving teams the opportunity to define the time needed in the office based on their specific brand, client and personal needs,” Silver explains. “We’ve seen our people take on the responsibility to be the best they can be and deliver the work that’s needed.” 

Looking ahead, Silver anticipates continued expansion and, more importantly, diversification of the company’s client base.

“We’re going to keep pushing innovation in technology to communicate more effectively with our customers’ key audiences,” he says, pointing to likely growth in the firm’s social sciences group. “It’s a division of our strategic department that gets behind human behavior to uncover why people do what they do. Those powerful insights help inform our work, from both a creative and an overall business strategy perspective.”

That’s why Silver doesn’t believe the pandemic has hampered innovation. “We’ve seen more noise and activity than ever before — more people trying to communicate with our core audience, especially physicians,” he continues.

McCann Health NY’s definition of “innovation” has expanded in the pandemic’s ongoing wake. “Increasingly, ‘innovation’ means representing greater diversity in the issues you’re tackling and the communities you’re addressing in relation to specific disease states, therapeutic categories or products. That’s awesome because it forces us to push ourselves beyond the rinse-repeat cycle that you see too often.” 

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Work from outside pharma you admire…

For many people in the LGBTQIA+ community, the name on their credit, debit or prepaid card doesn’t reflect their true identity, causing them pain and potentially putting them in danger. True Name is the first card that allows trans and nonbinary individuals to display their chosen name on their cards. It’s a great example of doing the right thing for a specific segment of your customer base. — Berman