Revenue increased by 2.5% to an estimated $80 million
“We’ll try some radical things and maybe fail fast, because you don’t get results through business-as-usual behavior”
“Genomics is going to change the world. I don’t just say that because we work with Illumina, but if you’re asking me what’s going to be the big thing next year, it’s genomics”
In April 2016, when Omnicom unified its Corbett and LLNS brands under the semi-dormant TBWAWorldHealth banner, the question wasn’t whether the decision made sense. It was how the 325 or so employees newly placed under the same corporate roof would respond to the elimination of their venerable agency brands, not to mention the nuisances that come with merging two distinct entities into one.
As TBWAWorldHealth global president — and former Corbett president and chief creative officer — Robin Shapiro puts it, “You generally don’t hear too many happy integration stories.”
By all accounts the TBWAWorldHealth reboot proved to be one of them. The reason it succeeded, Shapiro adds, is that all parties knew what they didn’t know, so to speak. So rather than cram all processes and philosophies into one of the two existing infrastructures, the firm wiped the slate clean.
“We essentially created a new agency, instead of spending time trying to figure out which firm’s culture and way of doing things we’d adapt,” she explains. “It had the effect of giving everyone a fresh start.”
Results on the client front were impressive as 2016 additions included a quartet of Johnson & Johnson assignments in the device and diagnostics realm for the company’s advanced sterilization products, cardiac-arrhythmia specialist arm Biosense Webster, medical-aesthetics unit Mentor, and ENT company Acclarent.
The firm also worked on developmental products from Merck and Teva Pharmaceutical, Shire’s hemophilia franchise, and Takeda’s Entyvio (for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis).
The agency also grew its relationship with longtime client Bayer, adding an AOR assignment on pulmonary hypertension drug Adempas.
“We set an extremely ambitious goal of 100% client retention, which isn’t the typical way it happens,” Shapiro says. “We took it really seriously. We studied warning signs of relationships in distress and learned what to watch for in [clients] that might need extra attention. If you’re worried about the relationship itself, you’re not focused on the work.”
How close did the firm come to achieving this utopian goal? Shapiro reports it only lost a few products that didn’t clear pipeline hurdles.
The agency was also active on the real-estate front in 2016, opening its fourth and fifth offices in Irvine, California, and Jersey City, New Jersey, respectively.
Staff size remained at 325; revenue was up from an estimated $78 million to an estimated $80 million.
Heading into the second half of 2017, Shapiro is optimistic about the agency’s current path, predicting a year of strong growth.
However, she notes that TBWAWorldHealth hasn’t yet gotten over the post-integration hump — and likely won’t until 2019.
“This isn’t a one-year endeavor. It’s a three-year effort, at a minimum,” she says. “Some things caught us a little bit by surprise, such as what are you doing with time sheets? What’s the work-from-home policy? There are so many things you never had to think about before, because the policies were in place. But those aren’t the worst headaches to have.”