When Spectrum Science owner and CEO Jonathan Wilson is asked to give his big-picture take on the company’s fortunes during 2021, he starts his response by hearkening back to 2013. That’s when Wilson acquired the firm and, to hear him tell it, started evolving it into what it is today.

“We have moved from being a project PR agency to a fully integrated marketing and communications media agency focused on strategy,” he says.

Adds Spectrum president Michelle Gross, “More and more, clients are not looking for a PR agency or for an advertising agency. They are looking for a strategic thought partnership.”

With the shift has come a change in approach, with Spectrum redefining its mission as a partner. During its engagements, the agency now asks a different set of questions, Wilson notes. “What are the client’s problems we are trying to solve? How do we do that while using the most effective ways to reach their audience?”

While 2020 saw Spectrum’s revenue dip slightly, the firm ended the year on a high note, to the tune of 10 wins. “It set us up really well for 2021,” says Gross, adding that half of the firm’s growth last year was from existing clients.

“We will start working with a client in one channel and then it opens doors for us to win additional work in, for example, clinical trial recruitment,” she adds.

In any event, the late-2020 momentum carried over into 2021. Spectrum grew revenue by just less than 49% during the year, to $48.9 million from 2020’s $32.9 million. The agency added 20 new accounts and 61 new people, driving head count from 120 at the start of the year to 181 at its end. New clients included Eli Lilly, CSL Behring, Spark Therapeutics, Travere Therapeutics and OraPharma.

One boom area for Spectrum has been clinical trial recruitment. For an effort around Moderna’s CMV vaccine, Spectrum reached out to some 4,000 women. “That allowed us to create compelling creative that was successful in raising awareness,” Gross says.

Wilson agrees, adding, “In the past, agencies such as ours would be brought in later, from a rescue perspective. We are now there during the planning phase to make sure they deliver.”

Spectrum has expanded its paid capabilities considerably in recent years, which is noteworthy given its origin as a pure-play PR firm. Gross reports the agency now manages $20 million of spend, all in healthcare. 

As for the Spectrum workplace itself, the agency has embraced everything that has come with the almost-post-pandemic move toward new models. Most important, Wilson believes, is “assuring that people are connected to their colleagues.” To that point, the firm’s GPS tool — “greatest potential self” — is designed to help staffers calibrate their career trajectories.

Notable staff additions included EVP, engagement strategy Patrick Richard (formerly of GSW); EVP, technology strategy and innovation T.J. Stevens (Johnson & Johnson); SVP, group creative director Modesto Rodriguez (Fingerpaint); and SVP, research and analytics Suzanne Wiggins (Intouch Group).

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Work from outside pharma you admire…

Airbnb’s Bonnie and Clyde TV commercial tells the story of an elderly couple on a lavish getaway. The theme is youthful yet appeals to an older crowd by joining two worlds through old-school art (still photos) and today’s music. It takes a clever approach to put a desired audience at the center, while still ensuring the creative is atomic enough to resonate, radiate and thrive. — Wilson