Giant finished 2017 on tenterhooks, CEO Steven Gold reports. “Heading into Christmas, we had two big pitches,” he recalls. “Doing one major pitch is hard. But two? It’s an ordeal.”

By the time everyone came back to work in the new year, Giant had learned it won both assignments: for Aimmune’s oral immunotherapy medication and Atara Biotherapeutics, a company working in T-cell immunotherapy. The agency celebrated by gathering the staff in its offices in San Francisco and showing the pitch itself.

“What made these two [wins] validating is in 2016, we had committed to focus on certain innovative areas in medicine, including cancer immunotherapy, molecular diagnostics, and leading-edge medical devices, and adapting our client roster to reflect that,” Gold says.

Last year’s revenue was flat at $34 million (2016 revenue was restated). While staff size remained at 160 employees, there were key hires as the agency made structural changes to formalize strategic divisions. Those include a medical and scientific group, analytics, brand experience, brand, and multichannel marketing.

That agenda called for a new leadership team, with a spate of hires that included Andrew Wint, SVP, technology; Aaron Sklar, VP, brand experience; and Sharon Rundberg, SVP, talent and people operations. Giant also promoted Jan Vennari (EVP, director of client services) and Amber Rogers (EVP, brand strategy), and rehired Jason Luis (SVP, media and data strategy).

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In addition to Aimmune and Atara, assignments won by Giant in 2017 included corporate work for genomics firm Omniome, strategic and CRM assignments for Sunovion, and clinical trial recruitment and strategy work for Aquinox Pharmaceuticals.

Giant remained strong in the digital realm, with digital work accounting for 85% of its revenue. “Virtually all our work is either being strategized or delivered through digital and interactive channels,” Gold adds.

One advantage Giant enjoys, he notes, is the type of client with which it tends to work. Given many of its clients are smaller biopharma firms and startups, the agency is less affected by the clouds hovering over pharma, including abundant consumer vitriol. “We’ve stayed partnered with companies working in areas with a high unmet need. That helps keep us focused on our mission, which is to make the marketing as impactful as the products themselves,” Gold explains.

That client base also exerts a little extra pressure on the agency to maintain its edge. “It’s important not to fall into the trap of being an old, established agency,” he says.