Luckie president and CEO John Gardner knows his way around a clever quip. He describes his company as “Madison Avenue talent with a sweet-tea personality.” Weighing in on the ongoing data-and-analytics craze, he notes, “Short answer long, data without a story is soulless and a story without data is pointless.”

But don’t let the folksy charm fool you: He and VP, managing director, Luckie Health Kamala Prince have quietly and efficiently built one of the South’s few killer healthcare marketing operations — and done so with a minimum of artifice and self-promotion.

The Luckie mother ship launched in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1953 as a traditional ad agency and didn’t give much thought to healthcare until a decade or so ago. However, once it did, Luckie Health grew quickly, snaring assignments from Galderma and GSK.

“The infrastructure has been there for a while, but we didn’t always talk about it,” Prince says.

Gardner believes the company asserted itself as a true player in health when it was tapped by ViiV Healthcare to play a major role in its global repositioning. “All of a sudden, little old Luckie was driving the digital launch strategy in the U.S. and Europe,” he recalls with a laugh.

Luckie Health creative sample

But that win also served as a galvanizing moment: “We needed horsepower,” Gardner says. Luckie Health expanded methodically, growing head count by 12 in 2023 to finish the year with 50 full-timers. It generated $15 million in revenue, up 35% from 2022’s take of $11.1 million. Client additions included Alimera Sciences, Synergy HomeCare and Avava.

Prince believes the agency’s stealth strength is its ability to manage a wider range of assignments than most similarly staffed organizations. By way of example, she points to a segmentation model built to maximize GSK’s direct sales and a traditional campaign to relaunch Northside Hospital’s heart institute — which, in order to debut on Valentine’s Day, required a true deadline sprint. “I’m so proud of the creative and the speed with which we did it,” she says.

Then there’s Luckie Health’s work for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, which targeted five leading causes of death. “We realized that if we could just have a 10% impact in 10% of people with a comorbidity, we could literally give hundreds of days back to the people of Alabama,” Gardner says.

Luckie Health has already waded into the AI waters, but, in keeping with the company’s ethos, has done so in a way that prioritizes pragmaticism over hype.

“This is not the NFT rush. We are not talking about Bored Apes here,” Gardner says. “We’re looking at it in terms of efficiency of workflow. The ability to storyboard using generative AI and AI concepts — you can do something in hours that used to take weeks.”

Beyond that, look for Luckie to evaluate acquisition targets in the months ahead. “The question is whether we can find incremental talent or underperforming agencies that need a little boost from us,” Gardner continues. “I think we can. My goal is to be the most talked-about healthcare agency in the South.” 

. . .

Work we wish we did

Eurofarma’s Scrolling Therapy campaign. One of the most devastating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is that patients lose their ability to produce facial expressions; they literally lose their smiles. The exercises to improve the symptom take 45 minutes every day, so only 3% of patients actually do them. The campaign is the right blend of innovation, integration, intelligence and, of course, inspiration to produce strong commercial results in a way that benefits the customer. — Gardner

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