Financially, the pandemic years have been kind to Deloitte Digital’s bottom line, with U.S. chief marketing officer Mark Singer characterizing them as a “hypergrowth period.” The numbers bear that out, with agency revenue spiking from $374 million in 2021 to $441.3 million in 2022, a gain of 18%.
The company’s expansive offering and transformation-first mindset likely have something to do with the recent results. “We view ourselves as a transformation business that lives at the intersection of consulting and creativity, and the entire market has grown tremendously around driving transformation — with digital, with experience, with content, with creative,” Singer says. “There isn’t a company in the healthcare and life sciences sectors that we don’t do work for.”
Singer notes that the post-pandemic period has prompted an even greater emphasis on connecting with customers, patients, physicians and influencers. That, coupled with the industry’s ongoing data revolution, “really helped us accelerate,” Singer continues. “Clients aren’t just saying, ‘Give me my communications solution.’ They’re saying, ‘Give me the thing that will help us transform our business more effectively.’”
To help manage the company’s growth, agency-world veteran Joanna Ruiz joined last year in the newly created role of managing director, Deloitte Health agency head. She notes that the firm’s clients have embraced change and the evolving demands on their day-to-day operations.
“The old way involved working in a linear model. Campaign development would take eight to 12 months, starting with strategy and then going to planning and creative,” she explains. Today, it’s more like a virtuous cycle: “We can bring incredible data that feeds insights — and then those insights feed brand strategy, which feeds campaign and content development, which feeds precision engagement, which feeds measurement. Technology has changed the world and our clients; the marketing people as well as the agencies have to change how they operate to keep up.”
Deloitte Digital increased the size of its health staff from 1,753 at the end of 2021 to 1,900 a year later. The company’s major acquisition was Dextra Technologies, a software engineering firm based in Monterrey, Mexico.
“It’s helping us build capabilities around marketing tech, commerce and sales force, and even around content,” Singer says. “And as the Hispanic and Latinx population grows within the U.S., it gives us a more native capability.”
While 30% of Deloitte Digital’s growth last year came from new clients, Singer notes that not all of the logos are new ones to the company: “We may have been working with them on anything from talent strategies to execution or some kind of connectivity.” Clients include pharma giants such as Merck and Sanofi as well as large healthcare systems such as NYU Langone, for which the firm has created digital apps and platforms that allow patients to book doctor appointments and follow up on prescriptions.
“We have teams working in pod-based delivery models at scale on continuous improvement and building on these products,” Singer adds.
New in-house offerings during the past year included ConvergeHealth CognitiveSpark, a cloud-based platform that uses AI to help companies drive better decision-making in the digital marketing realm. Another new offering, the Deloitte Global Content Studio, facilitates nimbler production of high-volume, high-quality content assets.
The Deloitte mothership also grew the size and ambition of its Health Equity Institute, founded in 2020 to help brands put health equity at the root of what they do. Ruiz reports that the program has impacted underserved communities: “We used our data analytics tools to identify sectors in Brooklyn’s gentrifying Crown Heights neighborhood, where folks don’t have the right nutrition or healthcare and are in danger of developing diabetes. Then we helped those individuals get the services they needed.”
Knowing that socioeconomic and mental health pressures have intensified in COVID-19’s wake, Deloitte Digital has also set about building awareness in predominantly Black and Hispanic communities of other health conditions.
A final new tool, the Ethos Offering, is designed to assist business leaders in developing programs around equity, climate change and sustainability.
“It’s about helping clients build sustainable manufacturing, distribution or supply chain practices,” Singer notes. “That allows companies to walk the walk, but do so in a way that benefits the longer-term future of their business.”
Amid it all, Deloitte Digital has stopped to smell the flowers, so to speak. “It’s not just about the work,” Ruiz stresses. “There’s a lot of camaraderie.” The company has grown to occupy eight offices, with Ruiz and Singer operating out of the Hudson Street headquarters in Manhattan. “It’s a great place to work and congregate, with a bar that serves coffee during the day and wine and beer at night.” There is, of course, ping-pong and karaoke.
Ruiz believes that Deloitte was minimally impacted by the pandemic from a business perspective, owing to its traditional consultancy model, which demanded a considerable amount of travel. “Our people have always been either at a client site, in an office or collaborating somewhere. It’s part of our culture to operate in a remote fashion,” she explains.
As for what comes next, neither Singer nor Ruiz expect the company’s current pace to slacken. “Just when you think marketing is going to slow down, something new and interesting gets thrown into the mix,” Singer says, pointing to Deloitte Digital’s “measured approach” toward AI and machine learning.
“We know the dirty little secret, though I can’t quantify it just yet. But right now, if you use AI, it’s probably more expensive than using humans,” he adds. “Still, there’s a lot of promise. Can we use AI to create medically approved content? To streamline an MLR process? To create more personalization so that targeting rare diseases becomes more efficient?”
Despite that cautious approach, Singer is bullish about opportunities to use AI in the realms of content and design. He teases that the firm will unveil “two or three pretty interesting, and maybe even industry-changing, things” in this area in the months ahead.
When asked for her own predictions, Ruiz aims slightly longer-range. “By 2040, healthcare as we know it will no longer exist,” she proclaims. “We’ll use science and data and tech to identify diseases earlier, to intervene proactively and to better understand disease progression to help people feel better and live longer.”
Deloitte Digital, she adds, wants to keep working with “companies that get that,” and similarly hope to transform health and communication ecosystems. “There’s so much transformation happening in health and digital and AI — the impact is going to be profound.”
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Our marketing role model…
Chidiebere Ibe, an artist and med student, noted the absence of diverse medical illustrations and aimed to fix that gap himself by creating positive, accurate images for the healthcare system. Often the best work stems from the creative collision of unexpected ideas, and Ibe’s beautiful, yet illuminating, art illustrations offer the perfect example of that collision in action — while marking a tangible step toward increasing representation in medicine. He’s not invested in effecting positive change for the sake of marketing and sales, but instead utilizes these as tools in his efforts for change. — Singer