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Discovery Worldwide


Revenue remained flat at an estimated $38 million


“We have placed a lot more emphasis around our scientific chops and scientific messaging and how we make that messaging come alive and resonate for our audiences”  
— Donald Young


“The transformation of medicine from a primary care to specialty focus will continue, including the rise of personalized medicine” 
— Donald Young

Discovery Worldwide entered 2016 determined to focus its business on content mainstays such as AOR assignments, medical communications, and advocacy, and exit its speaker bureau business, which group managing director Donald Young describes as executional and not content-driven. Did it work? Young says absolutely.

“We wanted to put our resources around content generation and dissemination of that content,” he explains. “It makes sense when we work with smaller companies to have one agency handle everything and act as a true extension of their marketing infrastructure.”

Donald Young

managing director: Donald Young

About 35% of its clients are small pharmaceutical companies, while 65% are midsize or large. The agency counts Astellas, AstraZeneca, and Sanofi Pasteur among its key AOR clients. Additions during 2016 and the early part of 2017 included Ipsen, Purdue Pharma, and Genentech, while the firm also picked up work from existing client Ortho Clinical Diagnostics.

For many of its clients, Discovery is incorporating scientific messaging into brand programming. On another front, Discovery has developed a proprietary tool called KMap, which drives patient advocacy by spurring the mapping and identification of key opinion leaders. The tool works well in the infectious and rare-disease spaces and in certain categories of oncology, where disease populations can be narrowed down more.

“What’s useful is you have a tool that’s real time in terms of where people are,” Young explains. “It’s versatile in that an individual may be a good speaker but doesn’t publish a lot, or vice versa. It helps marketers save a ton of time trying to organize, collate, and decipher information.”

To support these new capabilities, Discovery has bolstered its data, analytics, and strategy expertise. In July 2016, the firm hired former GA Communication Group staffer Jamie Dernik as VP and group account director. In February, former Redbird executive Matt Silver joined the agency as SVP of strategy, engagement, and analytics. He assumes some of the duties of former EVP and head of strategy Kristin Keller, who left Discovery in January. Tami Chapek, VP of client opportunities, now helps lead new-business efforts.

Other structural changes abounded. In the wake of the reorganization of parent company Publicis Health’s management team, Young reports to Alexandra von Plato, Publicis Health’s sole group president of communications and media agencies in North America. 

As Discovery celebrates its 30th birthday this year, Young feels nostalgic. Asked to look back at his 13 years with the company, he says, “It’s a very different agency. The funny thing is Discovery started out as very science-oriented, and that’s more needed now than before with the complexity of products that come to market.”