Over the course of her 18 years at Ogilvy, Shannon Walsh has worked alongside the company’s health and wellness clients on a near-daily basis. But it wasn’t until recently that Walsh — now president of PR for Ogilvy Health, North America — and her team were formally brought into the health fold.
The realignment, which coincided with a reconstruction of Ogilvy Health’s leadership team, has had a galvanizing effect on the agency’s day-to-day operations. Ogilvy’s PR and influencer marketing arms have long been considered among the agency world’s most effective and clever units, and bringing those skills to bear on health-related assignments has generated immediate results.
“It makes us work in a more multidisciplinary way than ever before,” Walsh notes. “We’re coming to the table with the full spectrum of what we can do to solve problems from every angle. I feel smarter and better for my clients.”
The market has responded in kind, with Ogilvy Health netting 62% of its 2022 growth from new clients. Among the significant additions were assignments from AbbVie, Merz Aesthetics, Bristol Myers Squibb, SpringWorks Therapeutics and Boehringer Ingelheim.
In the process, the firm has diversified its client portfolio. “Global pharma has always been our core base, but we’ve added health systems, health-tech companies, med-tech, devices and diagnostics,” notes Ogilvy Health global CEO Kim Johnson. “A rich portfolio means rich experiences for our people and our teams.”
MM+M estimates that Ogilvy Health grew revenue by 5% during the year, to $152.5 million from an estimated $145 million in 2021. Staff size grew from an MM+M-estimated 700 full-timers at the start of 2022 to 715 at the end of it.
Ogilvy Health’s revival certainly wasn’t hurt by a change in leadership at the Ogilvy mothership, with Devika Bulchandani replacing Andy Main as global CEO. “I’m sure there’s always been an appreciation for health, but now there’s a real understanding that every brand in some way wants to be a health and wellness brand,” Johnson says. “We’re absolutely more connected to our network now than ever before.”
None of this is to say that forging those connections, or rethinking the company’s place in the broader health-marketing landscape, was a linear process. While chief strategy officer Liz Kane reports that Ogilvy Health managed to triple the size of its strategy group, she acknowledges that doing so was “no easy feat, given the current talent environment.”
Also, as leaders of any company that has effected a shift in mindset or structure will tell you, change is challenging.
“We put it out there that we wanted to transform ourselves and modernize, and there’s some tediousness to putting together action plans,” Johnson says. “But that’s kind of the point — the work we do, it’s not easy. That reflection on how we need to show up is important.”
Look for Ogilvy Health to build on the gains of the last 18 months by simultaneously playing up its recent changes and the Ogilvy brand heritage.
“Everyone has connections to this agency. Nearly every client tells me they either worked with us as a client or worked here themselves earlier in their lives,” Johnson says. “We’re going to draw on the equity of the past and have it propel us into the future.”
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Our marketing role model…
David Ogilvy, of course. He started the agency with no clients and a staff of only two employees and built it into one of the largest advertising networks in the world. David’s spirit, passion and call for divine discontent fuel our mission to inspire people and brands to impact the world. — Johnson