The Top 75: Razorfish Health

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Despite being just five months old as a stand-alone shop—Publicis acquired the agency from Microsoft last October for close to $530 million—Razorfish Health is “bullish” about its prospects, and has been quietly supporting healthcare brands for years.

“We're currently supporting about 50 different brands,” says Katy Thorbahn, managing director of the agency's Philadelphia headquarters. “A lot of that is within the pharma space, and some of that is with payers and other healthcare companies.” Thorbahn declined to discuss specific clients or brand assignments, but the shop is known to have experience with leading pharma and biopharma companies like Wyeth, Schering-Plough, Johnson & Johnson, Roche and Genentech.

Thorbahn says Razorfish's goal is to serve a broader range of health and wellness clients. “Pharmaceuticals, biotech and medical devices are a critical part [of the business], but we also think there are opportunities for innovation with payers and wellness brands.” For payers, Thorbahn says there's a need for “distilling complex data into easily digestible information,” adding that healthcare reform presents enormous opportunities and challenges for payers.    

Traditionally a consumer shop, Razorfish Health has lately crossed into professional marketing, a move Thorbahn attributes, in part, to the decline of sales forces. “From the dollars perspective, marketing spend toward patients is a lot more money; it's a bigger audience to reach,” says Thorbahn. “But I'd say that we have more projects and are solving larger business issues on the healthcare provider side.”

Total headcount at Razorfish is roughly 160, and there are open positions. Thorbahn, speaking on the heels of three interviews with potential job candidates, says she's happy about the level of talent Razorfish is able to attract. “It keeps me excited about the proposition we're bringing to the market,” she says. Rob Ullman was recently tapped executive creative director, and Alfred O'Neill was named group VP, client engagement and strategy. Both were on board for the launch in March.

Razorfish's digital pedigree—Thorbahn recalls “heady” days at Microsoft, where she says the agency served as an innovation partner to the software juggernaut—is well served with Publicis, a company “in the same business as we are,” says Thorbahn. “We weren't core to what [Microsoft] is trying to do in the world,” she says. Also, Publicis set a goal to have at least 25% of its revenue coming from digital work, and Razorfish, in one fell swoop, made that happen, according to Thorbahn.

But what separates Razorfish Health from other digitally focused agencies? Thorbahn says the goal is to “create experiences that drive our clients' business.” That is, digital experiences that “actually deliver on the back end,” in terms of business objectives, says Thorbahn. “It's not just doing a website and making it look pretty,” adds O'Neill. “Or as a client said to me recently, ‘the last thing we need on our brand site is our DTC commercial on the home page.' You can't just have a static site that sits around waiting for people to visit it. It needs to have tools, outreach, iPhone apps and all of the things that make the brand more of a service experience, not just a treatment experience.” 

 Debrianna Obara, VP media, says listening to social media conversations allows Razorfish to discover patient needs and address them. While working on a biologic injectable, Razorfish found out that patients trusted the actual therapy, but “had a lot of fear about how to inject themselves.” After listening to conversations, the agency “created long-form video that we housed on our site and on YouTube that explained in detail how to [use the product],” says Obara. “The goal is to educate patients about how they can take control of their health outcomes.”
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