Avant Healthcare has stared down its share of recent challenges, including regulatory decisions that didn’t go its way in 2022 and the departure of Arun Divakaruni, CEO of the agency’s parent company DWA Healthcare Communications Group, in February 2023. Owing in large part to the bad regulatory fortune, revenue slid 3% in 2022, to $40.5 million from 2021’s total of $41.9 million. That 2021 sum, it should be noted, represented a 23% jump over 2020’s $34 million.
Avant’s current leadership trio still finds plenty to like in the agency’s 2022 performance. The year saw Avant continue to grow its medical affairs and medical education offerings, do important work around health disparity and launch an impressive number of drugs.
“We referred to it as ‘eight in eight’: Eight launches in eight months,” notes chief CX officer and president Trina Stonner. “That was significant because a product launch involves so many different functions.”
Avant has long counted medical education as one of its twin pillars of expertise (medical affairs is the other), which is why Stonner is particularly proud of the agency’s efforts focused on patients of color in the dermatological space.
“Many of our textbooks, visuals and other educational materials are focused on Caucasian skin,” she notes. “It is important to know how specific conditions appear on skin of color.”
Head count was roughly flat during 2022. The company started the year with 197 people under its roofs and ended it with 194. According to chief CX and creative officer Patrick Kelley, that trend presents both good news and bad
“The good news is that we’re hiring. The bad news is that the market is depleted of talent,” he explains. “Since the Great Resignation, we’ve been struggling to find great people and it’s forced us — ‘forced’ is the right word — to be more creative in our approach. We’ve been utilizing more organic channels and posting more social opportunities, and coupling that with great search.”
Stonner adds that the agency has kept in place flexible work arrangements in part to appeal to that elusive talent. “We made a conscious decision to allow that flexibility for our employees,” she says. “Where other agencies are requiring everyone to come back in person, we have a beautiful office. You can come in or you can be completely remote, and that’s great, too.”
Looking ahead, Kelley is excited about the innovations in HCP engagement that emerged during the pandemic, some of which build on the company’s years of work using Microsoft’s HoloLens for HCP education. “We have done so many virtual events and so many gamification programs and AR- and XR-type of engagements,” he says. “Now, even live engagements have a virtual engagement within them.”
Avant’s client roster includes engagements with Endo Aesthetics, Acacia Pharma, Genentech, Immunocore and UCB, and the company anticipates plenty of additions in the second half of 2023.
“We’re adding new clients to our books every month,” says chief CX officer and president Todd Wright. “It’s really exciting to see a 30-plus-year-old organization continue this high trajectory of growth.”
. . .
Our marketing role model…
It all begins with the founding fathers of modern marketing: David Ogilvy and “the big idea”; Leo Burnett and character branding; William Bernbach and creative process. Apple and Disney are always at the top of the list as influencers, but we like to go deeper. How about Bombas, whose unique vision and mission overlap with the products they offer? — Wright