When Evoke Group celebrates its 12th anniversary this December, the agency will also celebrate another milestone: year-on-year growth of at least 20% for over 10 years. Even by that standard, 2017 was a pretty OK year. Evoke’s North American revenue swelled from $65 million to $92.3 million, and the agency added an additional 73 employees to grow the size of its staff to 323.

For founder and CEO Reid Connolly, the year’s highs and lows were both people-related. “Seeing people have nine- and 10-year anniversaries — that’s huge,” he says. At the same time, he acknowledges it has been challenging to maintain an “uncompromising” stance when it comes to the résumés and cultural fit of would-be hires.

“When you’re growing fast and consistently, talent is everything,” Connolly continues. Notable 2017 hires included Evoke Health EVP, planning Emma Gilding, from J. Walter Thompson, and Firsthand VP, payer strategy Jeff Carbone, formerly with The Bloc. Managing director, data, analytics, and activation, Pat Thistlethwaite, slid over to Evoke Health from Evoke Group sibling Traverse HealthStrategy.

While Connolly declines to discuss specific clients and brands, he explains major trends in the healthcare landscape have impacted the scope of Evoke Group’s work. The Huntsworth Health-owned agency has always been singularly focused on AOR, pursuing project-based work only when it sees an opportunity to parlay it into an AOR relationship.

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That has changed ever-so-slightly. “We’re still doing AOR,” Connolly stresses. “We used to see opportunities that were just consumer, payer, digital, or global. In the past six months, almost every opportunity that’s come in has been a combination of at least two of those.”

But why are some pharma clients hiring only one agency, where they used to work with half a dozen or more? One reason is that healthcare continues to become more and more complicated, prompting clients to partner with agencies that can bring together all the disparate pieces, Connolly says.

Another reason is increasing pressure from within pharma marketing departments to trim costs, which is driving pharma clients to pick agencies that can do it all. “We exemplify what that agency partner can look like,” he adds.

That’s why Evoke will stay focused on the digital-first strategy that has driven its growth and success. Connolly strongly believes agencies without digital at their core are no longer relevant. “We work on the digital part of every one of our clients’ business, which is how it should be,” he says.