Revenue climbed 30% to $15 million
“Job number one is to focus our talents and energies on delivering impact and growth for the brands we currently serve”
“With the recent focus on healthcare in the press, public perception of our industry will ultimately improve because of the increased value placed on our health”
Calcium is bigger now in terms of revenue and staffers than when founder and CEO Steven Michaelson’s first agency, Wishbone, was acquired by Rosetta in late 2009. This achievement is impressive because Calcium is less than five years old and was recently pulled from the ashes of The Star Group.
Michaelson and his former Wishbone partners founded Calcium NYC in 2012. In early 2014, Star Group acquired Calcium and Vox Medica, then merged the two with Star Life Sciences. “Great strategic idea. Awful execution,” Michaelson says of the merger.
In 2015, after Star Group collapsed without warning, Michaelson and Judy Capano, managing partner and COO, bought Calcium back in the December bankruptcy sale. Michaelson and Capano, along with managing partner and chief strategy officer Garth McCallum-Keeler and managing partner and chief creative officer Steve Hamburg, then set about restructuring and refocusing Calcium.
In January 2016, Michaelson thought partnering with a mezzanine investor might be necessary, but by February the agency was growing and paying off the passed-on debt. By June, Calcium was debt-free. And by the end of the year, revenue was up 30% to $15 million.
Staff size initially dropped off after the bankruptcy sale, but Calcium has recovered to reach 70 full-timers, up from 65 in 2015.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our employees, who did whatever it took to deliver the best work possible for our clients,” Michaelson notes. “We couldn’t have recovered without their unmatched talent and drive to succeed.” Though it might seem counterintuitive, shedding some clients also proved critical to Calcium’s rebirth. “We streamlined from smaller project-based accounts to larger AOR accounts,” he explains. “It was in line with our overall strategy to be the best agency, not the biggest.”
Soon after Michaelson and his managing partners reassumed control, Calcium started winning new AOR business from existing clients including Sun Pharma, United Therapeutics, and Strongbridge Biopharma. Meanwhile, Genentech awarded the agency new positioning work on two franchises.
Calcium also claimed AOR assignments from new clients Bristol-Myers Squibb and Interleukin Genetics. The BMS win was a substantial one: It encompasses global HCP and patient AOR, plus U.S. HCP, consumer, and patient AOR for rheumatoid arthritis treatment Orencia.
The Interleukin assignment includes HCP, consumer, and patient work on Ilustra, which screens for chronic inflammation. The agency no longer works on Vigilant’s oral-cancer screener OncAlert, a departure Michaelson attributes to irreconcilable differences.
He credits Calcium’s staff for the roster additions and expansions. “Clients saw their talent and drive,” the CEO explains, noting some changes atop the agency hierarchy: Chief digital officer Don Feiler and director of client services Melissa Morrow are now partners.
“We continue to attract AOR clients that are in search of what we deliver: big-agency firepower without big-agency bureaucracy,” Michaelson says.
This profile has been changed due to an error by the agency in reporting its 2015 revenue.