Here at MM&M, we don’t embed with agencies for more than 45 minutes at a time. We don’t sit in on pitches or sit down for the requisite after-work sessions. But if we were asked to hand out an award to the agency that has an abundance of good vibes around it, based on what we hear from clients, competitors, and employees, that award would go to H4B Catapult.

The Havas-owned shop increased revenue by 11.1% in 2017, from $18 million to $20 million, and jumped from 80 to 100 full-timers. It added a handful of big names to a client roster that now includes Merck, AstraZeneca, Eisai, and Sanofi.

But the real change came in the form of a reputation that now transcends the company’s relatively small size.

Asked to address this perception, the three members of Catapult’s hierarchy — EVP, executive creative director Tracy Zuto and EVPs and directors of client services, David Newman and Eric Morse — pause before responding.

“We’re admired and, in all transparency, we’re feared a little,” Morse says. “We’re the agency they never saw coming.”

h4b catapult agency

Zuto quickly cuts in. “Maybe they fear us, but it’s not an, ‘Oh, we hate them’ type of thing. People want to work with us,” she explains, before deadpanning, “We’re impossible to not like.”

Newman then offers his take. “[Competitors] are surprised by us. They look at us in our office outside Princeton and wonder how we do so much.”

However they might read on the page, these thoughts are shared in a tone that’s neither boastful nor heat-seeking. Rather, they seem to reflect a degree of hard-won validation.

In addition to everything that comes with the daily grind, Catapult spent the past year taking a look within. After conducting the type of branding exercise it usually performs on behalf of its clients, the agency unveiled a new vision around the notion of “inspiring courage,” both internally and externally. “It’s about being bold and never settling. It’s about empowering everybody to stretch, take a stand, and have a voice,” Zuto notes.

Catapult also restructured itself around three business units — creative, strategy, and accounts — and appointed a single business lead for each. The idea wasn’t just to organize in a way that best accommodates clients, but also to empower agency leaders in the process. “It opened up opportunity for people who ordinarily might stay in their discipline,” Zuto says.

Up next: a continued push into women’s health, following well-received work on behalf of new client TherapeuticsMD.