While plenty of agencies are wringing their hands over the changes working their way through both the healthcare and advertising industries, Greater Than One CEO Elizabeth Izard Apelles couldn’t be more excited. “As a digital agency, this is such an exciting time for us,” she says. “We love disruption. Between the Affordable Care Act, changes in pharma and hospital systems, there’s just an enormous amount of white space for us to work with. It gives us the opportunity to create different solutions all the time. That’s why we describe ourselves as the AOR of the future.”
While the agency made some specific changes during the year, with 2014 revenues increasing about 5% over the year-ago period, they were all governed by the growing conviction that user experience is all that matters. “We want to make sure we’re making things people love to use and want to use, things that are intuitively designed and fit into their workflow. Even though we’ve always been a digital agency, what we’re saying is that it’s no longer about digital marketing, but marketing in a digital world,” Apelles says.
That shift called for change, so in 2014 the agency officially formed the Greater Than One Group, a network of independent businesses. It gives the agency access to 100 seasoned designers, user-experience specialists, strategists, technologists and project managers who understand tech, Apelles notes. “It helps us understand the psychology behind user interaction, so we can leverage this in everything we design to create long-term value for our clients.”
Among the agency’s most successful projects was its work on EnVizit, developed by its Adjacent to One unit, for patients with diabetes. Aligned with the limb-preservation unit of Novant Health system in North Carolina, the tablet-based platform usesanatomical detail to help people adopt new behavior, manage their health better and avoid such long-term consequences as amputation.
EnVizit is generating higher-than-expected patient compliance, Apelles says, but what really makes her happy is that it represents the future. “There just aren’t enough providers to take care of the folks who have chronic disease. In North Carolina, for example, there are 90,000 prediabetic people who will likely become diabetic. Even if every doctor and nurse navigator tried to meet with them, they still wouldn’t be able to see all the patients. So a technical solution has to emerge.”
And that can only mean good things for Greater Than One: “We’re digital natives and comfortable in this world, so we are really coming into our own. Digital innovation is just part of who we are.”
New accounts include the global introductory campaign for Novartis’s new heart failure medicine LCZ696, which could be approved this year, as well as assignments from Amgen and Genentech.
While head count remained flat at about 100, Apelles says the agency made significant new hires, including Greg Gross and Pamela Pinta as partners at Greater Than One and Maureen Costello and Adam Chromicz at Adjacent to One.
Looking ahead to the remainder of 2015 and beyond, Apelles says the agency hopes to further leverage the power of the group to win more AOR assignments. This year it introduced Greater Good, a nonprofit, to focus on projects that make an impact in the world and offer solutions to social problems. The idea is to partner with global clients as well as local charities for a “greater vision of what good stewardship of our planet means.”