In TBWA\WorldHealth CEO Robin Shapiro’s mind, the agency’s self-proclaimed ethos — “be authentic, do good and raise hell” — was best reflected during 2021 in a discussion with a client about inclusive casting for an upcoming campaign. 

“There was an actual tough conversation,” she recalls. “This is very new territory that we’re all navigating together, in terms of how do we create the most inclusive, diverse space in which to work.”

The team ended up turning the uncomfortable conversation into an idea: an inclusive casting guide, which doubles as a training module for employees.

Overall, it was a year of renewal for TBWA\WorldHealth, with Shapiro quick to praise staffers for their toughness. “People were so resilient in getting through what was clearly a crisis,” she says. “But that crisis caused our clients and even our own agency to reconsider what we need to do to accelerate our path forward.”

For clients, that reconsideration meant modernizing what Shapiro believes to be an outdated commercial model and doubling down on omnichannel.

“At the heart of it, omnichannel is a data-driven approach that understands how customer mindsets are different, depending on where those customers are located, what phase of the journey they’re on and even cultural inputs that might shift perspectives in different places geographically,” Shapiro explains. “There’s been a real awakening on the client side about what omnichannel can do to unlock the potential of their brands.”

There was reconsideration and renewal internally as well, especially around a collective desire “to be together,” Shapiro says. “We’re enabling and encouraging that to the extent that people feel safe to do it.”

There are more people to unite under the agency’s roofs, with staff increasing from 378 people at the start of 2021 to 434 at the end of it. Revenue surged 7% in kind, from an MM+M-estimated $86.5 million in 2020 to an estimated $92.5 million in 2021.

Personnel additions included president of TBWA\WorldHealth U.S. Joanna Jacobs (who arrived from Klick Health), CFO Matthew Rottker (from RxMosaic) and associate managing partner, WildType Candace Barbato (from Harrison and Star).

TBWA\WorldHealth enjoyed a successful year on the new-business front, picking up engagements from Moderna, Novartis and Bluebird Bio. “We’re always looking to work with disruptors,” Shapiro says. “In particular, we’re very proud of working with Moderna, which is a game-changing company and brand. They’re not only disrupting the vaccines category, but also actually helping to protect humankind.”

She pointed with pride to a Moderna campaign focused on getting shots into arms.

“When it was launched, people didn’t want to be told what to do,” she continues. “It was quite a polarizing topic. But our campaign was developed around doing it for you and for your own reasons, which are very personal .… It focused on how to reach people in areas that are challenged socioeconomically and on diverse populations. It was a modern idea, it was insightful and it worked.” 

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Work from outside pharma you admire…

What could be more powerful, simple and life-changing than a hand gesture that signals distress and saves lives for women experiencing domestic abuse? Juniper Park\TBWA created Signal For Help for Canadian Women’s Foundation to address a surge in domestic violence brought on by the pandemic, and it has now become a universal signal for distress. A TikTok amplified it globally. — Shapiro