When asked to describe AbelsonTaylor’s 2022, agency president Jeff Berg responds with uncommon candor. Acknowledging a “post-pandemic hangover,” he says uncertainty in the labor market contributed to a year in which the company fell short of its growth goals. Revenue dropped 7.2%, from $64.8 million in 2021 to $60.1 million in 2022.
“‘Treading water’ would be a good way to put it,” Berg adds. “During the core years of the pandemic — 2020 and 2021 — we experienced double-digit growth and productivity reached an all-time high. By the time we got to 2022, things had slowed down a bit.”
Even amid those challenges, Berg finds plenty of which to be proud, notably an agency-wide DE&I initiative. Emphasizing the need for “psychological safety” in and around the workplace, the initiative focused on ensuring that staffers feel safe and supported at work.
“Psychological safety is the belief that somebody will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes,” Berg explains. “We want everyone to feel comfortable adding their ideas to the pool.” To that end, he believes the agency is well on its way to “creating a culture of rewarded vulnerability.”
Despite the drop in revenue, staff size rose from 278 at the end of 2021 to 284 at the end of 2022. Notable additions included SVP, director of integrated content and production Dan Zigulich; director of talent acquisition Lisa Brigham; VP, director of engagement Sharlene Jenner; and senior directors of engagement Art Stiefel and Paul Spiegler.
Jay Carter, who has been with AbelsonTaylor for 35 years and was most recently EVP, director of business development, shifted into a director of business development emeritus role. As of late April, the agency had not publicly announced his successor.
AbelsonTaylor invested in growing its data and analytics capabilities in 2022, including bringing in new talent such as Rebecca Visconti, VP of marketing intelligence. The goal is to help clients better understand what channels are driving performance for brands.
As for new business, AbelsonTaylor added work in 2022 on the Biogen/Sage Therapeutics depression drug Zuranolone and PharmaEssentia’s polycythemia vera (PV) treatment Besremi. EVP, director of client services Lynnette Hunter views the launch of Zuranolone as a particularly rewarding pickup.
“It’s a product that will revolutionize how depression is treated and transform how we think about mental health,” she explains. “We’re excited to help change how HCPs think about major depressive disorder.”
AbelsonTaylor is similarly proud of its work on the Return of C.diff campaign for Seres Pharmaceuticals. The effort tapped horror movie tropes to capture how C.diff bacteria can cause recurrent inflammation and infection of the colon.
“It borrows on the design vernacular of horror movies, and their endlessly bad sequels, to make this point,” notes EVP, chief creative officer Stephen Neale. “It’s a relevant campaign that shines a light on the role of the microbiome in helping change the ending of that same predictable plot.”
Despite ongoing turmoil in the labor market, Berg and the AbelsonTaylor leadership team remain optimistic about what’s ahead. “So far, we’ve managed to weather the storm,” he says. “2023 is shaping up to be a positive year.”
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Our marketing role model…
Dolly Parton, of course. She’s been at the top of her game in a variety of different artistic venues for decades. She does good work. She values people. She is always rewarded for creativity and inventiveness, and she occasionally needs augmentation — which we do as well. Dolly Parton is a great role model for anyone in almost any field. — Dale Taylor, CEO