Revenue was up 6% to $36 million
“We plan to continue our modest growth trajectory and our expansion of key departments and teams. We are seeking clients with whom we can be strategic partners”
“Our industry will have to do a better job of understanding patients, their experiences, and how to communicate with them”
Giant found itself in uncharted — and choppy — waters at the start of 2016. For the first time, the San Francisco-based agency had experienced a down year of significant proportions.
But CEO Steven Gold was able to right the ship. “Last year was a really solid rebound,” he says. “While the top-line growth wasn’t huge [revenue was up 6% to $36 million], we got back to strong profitability.” He also simplified the agency’s organizational structure, bringing back former executive Eric Steckelman as chief growth officer and promoting Kristina Ellis to EVP, executive creative director. Total staff increased from 150 to 160 full-timers.
Central to Giant’s resurgence were new clients in cutting-edge areas, such as oncology immunotherapy and molecular diagnostics. “We had set our sights on trying to get into those categories,” Gold explains. In oncology, Seattle Genetics named Giant AOR for its CD30-directed antibody-drug conjugate Adcetris, while Juno Therapeutics tapped the agency as its strategic partner in the development of novel CAR-T cellular immunotherapies. In the diagnostics realm, Veracyte awarded Giant a host of HCP and patient initiatives to support Afirma Thyroid FNA analysis, while Genomic Health tasked the firm with developing strategic, creative, and tactical work across its multi-tumor product line.
“Molecular diagnostics is a relatively new area for us, and it’s really growing,” Gold notes. “Most of these companies have powerful companion diagnostics to a lot of the key oncology drugs, so we viewed that, along with personalized medicine, as a key area for growth.”
Giant also made a rare foray into big pharma, winning a consulting assignment for GlaxoSmithKline. “It’s a little harder for non-network agencies to break into some of these companies,” Gold notes. “But we managed to land some business with them around digital selling at the enterprise level.”
Giant also enjoyed a solid year with existing clients. It launched a major therapy-awareness campaign targeting cardiologists for Edwards Lifesciences; handled strategic development for Boston Scientific’s new Synergy stent; and worked on a number of new initiatives for Novo Nordisk, including the launch of the multichannel Medical Attention campaign around obesity.
Gold says Giant has expanded its insights group and multichannel offerings significantly. The agency is looking to partner with clients and brands “on the leading edge of innovation” and organizations committed to driving “meaningful and measurable” customer engagements.
“The goal is to get more seats at the tables that matter most to the future of healthcare communications,” he says. “We are trying to align ourselves with the clients who want to work with us from beginning to end.”
To that point, Giant is leading clients toward innovations such as VR and AI, particularly around conventions and live experiences. “It’s important to look at the emergence of technology in healthcare and where it comes together,” Gold explains. “Even though we are not developing and designing the technology ourselves, we are bringing it to our clients at a strategic level.”