Revenue decreased 11% to an MM&M-estimated $24 million in 2016
“We are redefining expectations for what the next-gen AOR can deliver, with software and digital marketing sharing equally in importance and value with branding and creative.”
“Many traditional companies will transform themselves into specialty pharma players”
Twelve months ago, David Ormesher, Closerlook’s CEO, blasted healthcare marketers for running their campaigns from “intuition and last year’s playbook.” A year later finds him writing a playbook of sorts.
“We’ve built this tool called the Customer Guide, which is something we’ve distilled from years of digital marketing,” he explains. “It’s a road map for clients on how to actually do digital marketing. It lets us set certain benchmarks across tactics.”
Ormesher says that the approach was prompted by continued confusion among pharma companies hoping to distinguish themselves in the digital realm. “We find that a lot of pharma marketers understand they need to ‘do digital.’ But they’re still not fluent in it themselves, so they take a shotgun approach,” he continues. “We want to offer a more strategic, coherent approach.”
A new AOR relationship the agency forged with drugmaker Smith & Nephew validated that approach. “We’re experiencing this evolution of the AOR, where we’re managing the client’s agency ecosystem. We’ve been growing more and more into a quarterback role,” Ormesher says. “We’ve started coordinating the agencies that report to the client and manage them as they execute their tactics.” Ormesher would not share how the agency fared in terms of revenue, other than to note that Closerlook did not hit or exceed the 35% growth it saw in 2015.
The agency reports that staff size at the end of 2016 was 120, down from 150 a year ago. As a result, MM&M estimates that the firm saw revenue decline in 2016, down from $27 million to an estimated $24 million, an 11% decrease. While Ormesher would not disclose any of the clients or brands Closerlook added during the past year, he says that the agency’s work spans numerous therapeutic categories, including diabetes, mental health, cardiovascular, and oncology.
Two dynamics created a challenging environment in 2016, Ormesher says: a continuing squeeze on marketers due to the friction between increased patient expectations for breakthrough therapies and payers’ desire for lower costs. “Pharma has to do more with less. Brands are smaller, but the workload hasn’t changed,” he explains. “This requires agencies to step into the gaps as never before in providing strategic support and high execution.”
Those gaps have been a sweet spot for Closerlook, Ormesher says. “Data helps them plan and make decisions. We’re helping them in the planning phase and digital is a lower-cost way to get to market.”
But data alone isn’t the salve for every problem, he cautions. “A big message we got from clients was, ‘OK, there’s a lot of data here. So what do we do with it? Give me three things I should do this quarter based on what happened last quarter.’”
That “big message” lead to the creation of Duet, a new software product Closerlook developed. “It’s a data-mining tool that allows both our clients and our brand teams to load up all the data on their targets and then pull together new target lists and look at trends,” Ormesher says. “It creates this curiosity among our account teams and our clients.”