At the start of the year, Tank Worldwide CEO Marc Lanouette assembled the firm’s 365 or so people for a three-hour town hall. The meeting laid out, frankly and transparently, information about the financial footing of the company, as well as goals and expectations for 2023.

Pretty standard fare for many agencies, right? But at Tank, it represented a major departure.

“That level of transparency wasn’t something I used to be comfortable with,” Lanouette says. “But it’s something that we need to do. It gets people invested in striving for the same goals.”

Founded in Montreal in 2007 and acquired by WPP’s Grey Group in late 2016, Tank has quietly emerged as one of the medical marketing world’s go-to shops. On the back of new assignments from Pfizer Canada (eight brands), GSK (seven brands, spanning both the U.S. and Canada) and Abbott (five brands), Tank grew revenue from $44.8 million in 2021 to $58 million in 2022, a 29% jump. Head count increased by 53 full-timers in 2022.

Lanouette attributes many of the recent gains to an attitude adjustment of sorts, in which the company has pushed back against what he calls the “toxic positivity” in pharma marketing.

“You know it when you see it — people on the beach, things like that,” he explains. “We want companies with cojones to reach out to us.”

Tank CMO Jill Mastroianni points to GSK, once saddled with the reputation of being creatively conservative, as an example: “It’s a client we’ve won awards with,” she says.

Despite this recognition and the aforementioned revenue growth, Tank remains less well known than many of its similarly sized peers. That’s partially due to the agency going out of its way to foster a boutique-type feel. “When you work with us, you’re not walking into a machine where you get lost,” Mastroianni notes.

Therein lies the challenge for Tank going forward: to maintain that sense of intimacy even as head count climbs past 400. Chief creative officer Marty Martinez believes it’s possible to transform this kind of challenge into an opportunity, however.

“The advantage we have is that, post-pandemic, a lot of people are looking for something new,” he says. “We’ve become an alternative in a way that we might not have been two years ago: ‘Oh, they’re part of WPP, they’re growing.’”

Martinez notes that Tank’s work outside the immediate health space, including engagements with Volvo, Pringles and Bank of Canada, could play into the firm’s hands as it seeks to staff up.

“Around 80% of our creatives have a consumer background,” he continues. “We’re taking that approach into solving healthcare problems. We’re challenging what pharma has settled for in the past.”

Look for Tank to move aggressively to maintain its momentum. Lanouette predicts that the agency will claim new business in one of the industry’s three current jumbo-size consolidation plays, while Mastroianni anticipates that it could expand its reach by snaring a handful of nontraditional clients.

“Everybody talks about how wellness could come into play in food and beverages or in travel,” she says. “We’re leaning into that.”

. . .

Our marketing role model…

Ted Lasso, a kind, humble man who believes in people and their ability to achieve the impossible while adapting to any reality that life puts in front of him. He leads with a positive attitude, empathy and integrity. He’s a reminder that we can all strive to be better versions of ourselves and that a little kindness and compassion can go a long way. — Mastroianni

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