Transition and transformation were top-of-mind concerns in 2022 for the leadership team at Omnicom-owned Healthcare Consultancy Group. Largely those changes took place outside the agency’s walls — “Even with COVID behind us, you kept hearing about an industry in ‘chronic crisis’ or ‘permacrisis,’” notes CEO Matt D’Auria — but HCG itself subtly shifted to accommodate the evolving medical affairs and education landscapes.
“We’re known as a company that’s deeply scientific, and we’re always going to wear that nerd pin proudly,” D’Auria says. “But I like to think that we’re increasingly being recongnized for the creative and digital prowess we have, and how it complements that scientific experience.”
HCG’s 2022 results bear out this thinking. The agency saw revenue jump 15%, from $121 million in 2021 to $138.8 million. One-quarter of that growth came from new clients, with HCG adding engagements with Novo Nordisk, Sandoz, Prelude Therapeutics, Secura Bio and Novocure to a client roster that included AbbVie, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Takeda.
The growth extended to HCG’s leadership suite. The agency added two C-level posts — chief transformation officer and global chief strategy officer — and hired Jan-Willem van Doorn and John Timmins, respectively, to fill them. Overall head count grew from 865 people at the start of 2022 to 971 at its conclusion.
As HCG continued to add people, the organization did everything in its power to ensure that culture wasn’t a casualty of growth. Among other programming, HCG assembled its people for Bestival, an event designed to celebrate the agency’s recent work. In the almost-post-pandemic era, it had a second aim, according to Jeremy Williams, global director of HCG’s client relationship management group: “It was a little bit about offsetting the challenges of the flip side of remote work.”
Bestival’s centerpiece was Innovation Island, which played off the central intellectual premise of reality TV series Love Island (“I watched one episode and I’m dumber for it,” D’Auria jokes). The “island” featured several villas and cabanas associated with different innovation-related concepts.
“Coming out of the past few years, when employee retention was a real concern in some places, we know how important it is to do things like this,” D’Auria continues. “You can say you’re employee-centric, but employees vote with their presence whether you live that out or not.”
HCG similarly strove to ease client-side burdens at a time when many brand teams were experiencing a high degree of economic angst. “It frequently gets translated to us through procurement: ‘We want everything better, faster and cheaper than how it was done previously.’ It’s been a challenge, but the way we’ve responded to it has been differentiating,” Williams says.
Managing ongoing industry change will remain a top priority for HCG in the second half of 2023 and beyond.
“We’re at the inflection point between digital transformation and AI transformation,” D’Auria says. “Everybody has probably played with ChatGPT over the past six months, and how things like that get integrated into our work is critical.”
Williams agrees, adding, “We’re seeing the theoretical become the realistic; now the goal is to see it become the practical.”