Create NYC founder and president Natalie McDonald says what set 2017 apart from prior years was simple: The sound of ringing phones. “We understand who we are,” she explains. “While a client’s AOR usually develops the plan, we’re more the closers. Clients come to us later in the game, when it’s time to flawlessly execute.”

And while the Create NYC team is used to explaining its unusual flat-fee, freelancers-on-call model to potential clients, director of new business strategy Katie Sutherland says it resonated in 2017. “We no longer need to educate clients about what we offer,” she notes. “They are asking for and calling us. They’re looking for efficient, tactical work once plans are set.”

Those ringing phones drove what McDonald calls a “fantastic” 21.1% gain in revenue, which climbed to $14.9 million. The agency supported 10 pharma companies and more than 65 brands in 2017. It employed 29 full-timers at the end of the year, up from 26 at the end of 2016.

In July, after MM&M’s print edition went to press, Create NYC was acquired by UDG’s Ashfield Healthcare Communications. Ashfield president Doug Burcin characterized the Create NYC addition as a “great step forward in transforming our network of agency capabilities for our clients.”

“We do well with big pharma, but are increasingly working with smaller companies and biotechs, as well,” McDonald notes.

The agency largely stayed within its niche of deliverables-based assignments. “We do really well with big pharma, but increasingly we are working with smaller companies and biotech as well,” McDonald notes. “We grew with existing clients and with new clients whose needs hadn’t been met by the traditional agency model.” But CreateNYC also added two AOR assignments, both from longtime clients.

create nyc agency

McDonald describes one of the new assignments as “an upgrade in role and responsibility” from an existing client. The other came from a small company that felt “it was a lower priority at larger agencies.” That win was especially gratifying, given Create NYC competed against three agencies owned by large holding companies.

Asked about trends that influenced the agency’s thinking over the past 18 months, McDonald points to pharma’s new openness to exploring social media. “Our clients are ready and willing to promote big and small brands,” she notes. The firm’s work for Pfizer’s Multicultural Center of Excellence digital team included branded content for Chantix and Lyrica, such as newsfeed ads on Facebook that let users get co-pay savings cards via text.

Similarly, Create NYC is helping clients develop Instagram-specific campaigns. “It’s a new frontier for many clients, who are now more open to putting out a specific post on a brand and seeing it as a test-and-learn opportunity,” McDonald explains.

A final trend the agency witnessed is a willingness to distinguish “tier-one work from tier-two work,” she says. “It used to be a challenge to convince clients to work this way. Now, they are looking for it and seeking partners to help them achieve it.”

This profile has been updated to include the acquisition of Create NYC by Ashfield Healthcare Communications.