The prototypical MM+M Agency 100 profile shapes the highs and lows of the last 12 months of an agency’s life into a smooth-running narrative. In the case of Klick Health, the ink had barely dried on the June issue last year before the material started accumulating for this year’s portrait.
On June 21, just as the 2022 print edition started arriving in mailrooms and mailboxes, Klick announced that its global footprint had taken a leap forward with the opening of seven overseas hubs. The pace didn’t exactly slow to a crawl thereafter.
In fact, the developments, which often arrived in bunches, continued apace throughout the next three seasons. When all was said and done, Klick had packed a decade’s worth of activity into a single calendar year.
“That’s just a year in Klick Time,’’ quips CEO Lori Grant. “This has been a year of turbo-charged expansion.”
If that’s the case, then not being bound by the customary laws of physics allowed the company to accomplish a great deal. Late last summer, Klick launched a production studio (Studio K) , an influencer marketing practice (Klick Influence) and a health-centric brand/design offering (Klick Brands). It also unveiled a slew of executive-level hires, including ex-Googler Ryan Olohan as EVP of growth.
Further developments, on both the personnel and organizational front, ensued in the fall and extended into early 2023. Klick’s Ideas Exchange event featured a keynote with President Barack Obama. The agency subsequently hired ex-McKinsey exec Brian Fox, who joined as president of its commercialization solutions business, and launched Btwelve, a venture studio. The latter unit helped extend Klick into non-biopharma clients such as Seed Health, a microbial sciences company, as well as Ostro, a healthcare information platform.
And let’s not forget the highlights from the first half of 2022, which included new corporate reputation and strategy practices as well as the launch of The Workshop, whose remit involves experimenting with new ways to market and advertise in healthcare.
Klick’s growth in these areas is by design, the company’s leaders note, and is meant to help pharma and biotech
clients address their myriad commercialization challenges.
“Gone are the days of the AOR, d-AOR and media AOR,” says co-president Greg Rice. “Clients have commercial challenges at a global scale and they need a savvy business partner to help them be successful.”
The same can be said for its single-P&L, fully integrated operating model. “The key here is authentic integration,” Grant stresses. “We don’t work the way other agencies work, and that really helps our clients in new and different ways. They’re looking for agile agencies.”
By way of example, Grant notes that Klick, primarily a North American company for most of its first 25 years, marked its anniversary by formally opening offices in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East/Africa and Latin America. Before doing so, however, leadership took pains to export the Klick model abroad.
At the time, Klick chairman and founder Leerom Segal explained that clients had been calling for the company to “grow its global footprint, but do it in a way that preserves the soul of the organization.” Thus Klick made sure its singular culture made the trip as well.
Managing directors from those regions were hired the following fall, including former Wunderman Thompson exec Jennifer Lambert for EMEA and former Havas CX Brazil leader Roberta Raduan for LATAM. In addition, Klick promoted a host of its longest-standing people: Jennifer White became global head of growth, while Glen Webster became EVP, global operations.
MM+M’s revenue estimate — which takes into account staffing levels vis-à-vis the previous year as well as historical comparisons against similarly situated organizations — pegs Klick’s 2022 take at $510 million. This represents a 6% jump over the MM+M-estimated $480 million generated by the organization in 2021.
Klick, which declined to share its financial data, disputes the estimate and reports that the agency experienced 20% growth during 2022. That would place the company’s revenue at $576 million.
Agencies that exhibit the kind of growth that Klick has enjoyed over the years — it became the first company in the MM+M Agency 100 to smash the $200 million, $300 million and $400 million revenue ceilings — typically need to scale up accordingly. But total staff size fell slightly in 2022, from 1,498 at the start of the year to 1,487 a year later.
When asked about the 11-person head count decline, Grant cautions against reading it as such. “Honestly, it’s not the way to look at it,” she says. “I would think about this in terms of the high-performance culture we have and that we continue to thrive on.”
Many of Klick’s successes on the creative front were achieved on behalf of pro bono clients. The Bridge, a short film produced for nonprofit Paws NY, promotes the positive mental health impact of pets. Thirst, a video created on behalf of nonprofit podHER (formerly known as EmpowHER NY), is designed to raise awareness of the censorship of women’s sexual health information on social media.
Then there’s Lifesaving Radio, which Klick describes as the first AI-powered healthcare radio station. Based on research results suggesting that surgeons’ performance is optimized when listening to rock and roll music — specifically, blasting AC/DC — Klick reimagined 11 of the band’s best songs for the surgical suite. The album, Highway to Heal, was rolled out to hundreds of HCPs at Dr. Daniel Kraft’s NextMed Health event this past spring.
Klick’s leadership has been touting AI’s potential in medicine for years, long before it became an industry buzzword. In 2018, Klick Labs published survey research revealing that physicians were on board with chatbots and their role in coaching patients or streamlining organizational tasks — but that they had concerns about the ability of the algorithms to comprehend human emotional states or handle questions requiring advanced medical know-how. Some of those concerns seem likely to remain valid in 2023 as AI’s newest iteration, generative AI, finds a foothold in the worlds of medicine, marketing and technology.
“It seems like the ad world has been awakened by the chatbot,” Rice says.
These capabilities, he adds, have been part of Klick’s core offering, both in terms of its own operations and its external offerings, for some time. Given that clients “have been sponges for more information,” as Rice puts it, it’s clear that such tools will remain a big part of the Klick technology story moving forward.
“Will LLM [large language models] and AI change the future? It will evolve certain roles and how we think about things,” says Grant. “But right now, it’s a time of great experimentation.”
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Our marketing role model…
You won’t find the name of anyone from the outside world in this sidebar because we get our inspiration from the 1,500-plus Klicksters who are the heart and soul of our agency. — Grant