Inizio Evoke CEO Reid Connolly is convinced that, even in a universe of agencies that believe they are fiercely
client-centric, Inizio Evoke stands proudly above the rest.

“We’re different, based on our DNA,” he explains. “We started as a digital organization 17 years ago, at a time when very few agencies knew how to do digital well. Being digital-first is more relevant now than ever, and it’s how we’ve built the organization.”

Connolly pointedly adds that digital “has never been an afterthought” at Inizio Evoke, as it may have been at other legacy agencies. As a result, his firm has “a real agility advantage.”

In the wake of the company’s recent rebranding, that agility likely came in handy. During a year full of agency mergers, rebrandings and repositionings, Inizio Evoke took a path that demonstrated just how intricately companies are rethreading operational needles.

Evoke became Inizio Evoke early in 2024, unifying many of its specialty agency brands into six central units. Here’s how it breaks down: Inizio Evoke includes what had been Evoke North America, Evoke Europe and Evoke Mind+Matter U.K. The new Inizio Evoke Drive comprises Evoke MicroMass and Evoke Mind+Matter U.S.

Inizio Evoke creative sample

Inizio Evoke Comms contains Evoke Canale, Evoke Galliard and Evoke Kyne. Inizio Evoke Transformation houses Evoke Create and Evoke Melt.

Inizio Evoke Access, which includes the former Evoke Navience, provides market access and patient support experience for the full organization. Finally, Inizio Evoke Media offers global health media services.

That massive restructuring comes 18 months after Ashfield and Huntsworth (Evoke’s one-time parent) combined and rebranded as Inizio, and it follows slightly downbeat results in 2023. Revenue fell nearly 8% to $340.3 million, down from $368 million the prior year.

Connolly doesn’t view the rare down year as a reason to panic. “The entire industry experienced a number of headwinds last year,” he explains. “We weren’t unique in dealing with that.”

That said, the rebranding is designed to give Inizio Evoke, a company that has long been a leader in healthcare commercialization, more seamless access to expertise in advisory, medical, engagement and biotech.

Connolly characterizes the changes as “radical and pragmatic. We did it the right way and took our time to understand our clients’ needs.”

The focus, he adds, “was on taking out the friction clients have at most large agencies and holding companies. We’re building an agency of the future. We’re solving the biggest commercial and communication challenges our clients have.”

Meanwhile, as revenue declined, Inizio Evoke reduced head count. The company ended 2023 with 1,280 full-timers under its roofs, down from 1,432 at the start of the year. 

It still managed to attract a handful of heavy-hitters, including a pair of well-regarded Havas Health & You leaders. Cris Morton, formerly group president at HH&Y, joined in October as group president, marketing, Inizio Evoke.

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“Cris is a huge addition who will look at how we can bring together the marketing and creative services, media services, data and analytics to help solve challenges,” Connolly enthuses. “We’re keeping ourselves incredibly client-centric, moving to where they’re going, and making sure that we keep the right level of strategic support across the board. We want to do it in a way that is shaped for tomorrow, not how people have done it historically.”

Cheryl Fielding, also a former Havas Health & You group president, signed on in May 2023 as Inizio Evoke’s first chief client officer. Connolly termed it a “pivotal role” designed to ensure that clients have “a consistently exceptional and integrated experience with access to the platform’s best solutions, thinking and talent.”

That, in fact, is the common thread among Inizio Evoke’s staff additions. “We’re trying to map our talent to the needs of clients and what’s important to them moving forward. That means we’re looking for people who are trying to shake things up.”

Other high-level hires included Britt Thompson, EVP of Inizio Evoke’s corporate and commercial strategy, from a similar post at BGB Group; and CFO Dave Barron, previously CFO at Manifest.

Taken together, the myriad Inizio Evoke changes are motivated by a single priority: minimizing pain points that Connolly says are very real to clients.

“They’ve dealt with other organizations. They know that while the market access, creative, consumer and PR teams might be owned by the same holding company, those teams have never met each other — and if they have, they don’t like each other,” he explains.

To that end, Connolly believes that Inizio Evoke’s superior interoperability is a true differentiator, especially as clients grapple with leaner teams of their own.

“Our clients are more resource-constrained than ever. They rely on us as a real strategic partner, which means they need us to work more collaboratively and be more self-directed,” he continues. “They can’t work with some of the stodgier agency partners out there.”

Owing to those constrained budgets, Connolly reports that clients have been eager to tap into the agency’s data products. Last year, the agency expanded its AI and intelligence offerings, adding five products — Narratev, Affinitev, Adaptev, Emotev and Collectev — designed to deliver practical insights for life sciences and pharma clients.

“The insight piece of our business has been growing expeditiously,” Connolly says. He notes that budgetary cutbacks mean clients “have a much greater hunger to understand what is happening with digital behavior, for both consumer and professional audiences.”

Finally, Connolly reports increasing demand for Inizio Evoke’s transformation services, modular content solutions and agency of record services. The agency is known to work with Ferring, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Pfizer and Eli Lilly.

Despite 2023’s downturn, Connolly is pleased with Inizio Evoke’s growth in 2024: “We’re encouraged and approaching the year with cautious optimism.” However, he does acknowledge that many of the 2023 headwinds are still whistling.

“So we’re a little short of being bullish, because it’s just too soon to tell. But we’re excited that clients are more and more interested in innovation, doing things differently and experimenting with new technology,” he continues.

In any event, the turbulence doesn’t make Connolly nervous. “That’s where we thrive. We are a trusted strategic partner that clients know that they can rely on, and that helps us build an even closer relationship with them.” 

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Work we wish we did

Reclaim Your Name. No one wants to see their name singled out as a mistake, but so many people with non-English names suffer that very fate. So when Microsoft Word partnered with Elimin8Hate to create a custom dictionary of over 8,000 Asian names, it was inspiring to see that sometimes companies do want to be the change they wish to see in the world. To quote the founder of Elimin8Hate, “Respecting people’s ethnic Asian names is
a vital part of anti-racism.” — Connolly

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