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Revenue grew 12.5% to $13.5 million


“This will be our biggest year ever. We are expanding all three of our offices greatly, creating brand experiences for customers and employees”
— Kerry Hilton


“The digital world is changing the way we launch products and the way we view agency-client relationships. The marketing dollar is shrinking to a degree, so everything we do has to be measurable”
— Kerry Hilton

Since 2001, Austin-based HCB Health has built up a reputation on a steady diet of device manufacturers and treatment centers. Two years ago, it extended north to Chicago with the acquisition of Topin & Associates. Then, in 2016, it quietly set up a virtual presence in New Jersey. This may sound like a small-time play, but it’s a significant one: HCB is now in pharma country — and pursuing pharma clients. 

It was another bright year for the agency in 2016, as revenue grew 12.5% to $13.5 million and staff increased from 75 to 85. “We had a lot of growth from existing media clients and digital clients, plus new clients that came in the door from both Austin and Chicago,” says Kerry Hilton, partner and CEO.

Kerry Hilton

partner and CEO: Kerry Hilton

Around one-third of the growth came from new clients, including Mallinckrodt, Tidi Products, Aptitude Health, MT Pharma, and Aries Pharma. For the latter, HCB will launch a group of gastrointestinal drugs over the next 18 months.

Meanwhile, the agency continues to expand its global AOR work with longtime client Alcon Surgical, for which it has launched 24 devices and counting. “Our institutional knowledge of their technology is so rich they just lean on us as an extension of their team,” notes Nancy Beesley, partner and chief strategy officer.

The lion’s share of HCB’s work is professional, although certain assignments have consumer elements. Needless to say, pretty much everything has a digital component. HCB, much like its peers, has beefed up its data and analytics offerings, hiring 

Harry Stavrou from Ogilvy to form a new analytics group alongside media director Dave Russell. “We’d been doing data and analytics for years, but we recognized opportunities, especially among some of our pharma clients, to become more of a business consultant, to delve deeper into the data and make serious recommendations,” explains Hilton. “It’s not just measuring anymore. It’s predictive analytics.”

Other notable hires included James Hamilton from Precisioneffect, Kerri Koppenaal and Francesco Lucarelli from McCann Torre Lazur, and Nick Rambke from AbelsonTaylor. Rambke will take the reins of the Chicago office when Al Topin retires.

Meanwhile, Ari Wexler, who was hired from Merkle Health last year to kickstart the New Jersey operations, was recently joined on the ground by the agency’s new chief innovation officer, Juice Pharma veteran Robert Palmer. 

Hilton says he is looking to evolve the virtual office into a brick-and-mortar location, probably in Jersey City. “We want to be close to both the customer and the talent,” he explains. “It’s been very exciting to be a part of this venture and it’s already yielded some wonderful new business for us.”

It could work out well. Beesley is seeing more opportunities, especially in New Jersey, to work with larger pharma companies outside their AOR structures, owing to their increasing need for multiple vendors with different skill sets. “It’s great for us,” she notes. “It gets us a seat at the table with big pharma. They’re becoming interested in the value proposition that we are bringing.”