Asked to give a quick state of the union for the company he has helmed for the past three years — a question which has been known to provoke rambling, 12-minute answers from other agency leaders — Taaffe says, “We’re in a robust place and growing at a dynamic rate. There’s new demand coming into our agencies. Part of that is because the [health] sector is dynamic right now, but part of it is because we reorganized ourselves in a way that meets client demand.” Hard stop.
That aforementioned reorganization — into marketing, medical, immersive, and communications divisions — was a relatively minor one. Taaffe describes it as “not particularly disruptive or jarring.”
At the same time, it rearranged Huntsworth Health’s holdings in a manner that more easily appeals to clients, especially ones who have been put through the holding-company wringer.
“Clients are so tired of the same holding company options and getting the same mediocre results and teams,” says Reid Connolly, head of the Huntsworth marketing division and global CEO of Huntsworth Health mainstay brand Evoke Group. “What we have here is the talent level, creativity, and results you’d expect from a small independent agency, but with scale.”
Adds Taaffe, succinctly as ever, “We’re increasingly perceived as the preferred independent option.”
The market seems to agree. Revenue jumped just less than 28% in 2017, to $143 million from $112 million in 2016. Huntsworth Health employed 570 people at the end of 2017, up by 58 from 2016. And 75% of growth came from existing clients.
Huntsworth also deepened its push into media buying and planning with the acquisition of AboveNation Media in February, assigning it to the Evoke Group family of companies. While Taaffe refers to AboveNation as a “smallish agency,” he believes it adds a big piece to the integrated-services puzzle. “Media should be implicit in any solution, rather than an add-on,” he says.
Huntsworth Health took a hit on the personnel front last July when longtime CEO Neil Matheson departed the company. However, Huntsworth hasn’t said much about replacing him.
In fact, most of the A-list hires have been made by its subsidiaries, such as Evoke Group and ApotheCom. “Over the past four or five months, we’re seeing a lot of CVs rolling in. I’m not sure if that’s due to our growing stature or dissatisfaction elsewhere,” Taaffe says. Look for the company to boost its presence in Chicago, as well as continue its West Coast expansion.