W2O has acquired healthcare advertising and medical education firm 21Grams.
The deal adds about 150 staff to W2O. 21Grams will continue to operate under its current brand, but will be integrated into W2O’s one P&L. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.
“One of the things we’ve been evolving toward is a more holistic commercial solution for our clients,” said Jim Weiss, CEO of W2O. “We’re perceived in the market as strong in data, analytics and insights, and media and engagement, particularly social and digital. But we’re not very well known for the full commercial suite. We’ve added a lot of medical scientific comms staff in the last few months. A group of this scale, size and reputation, like 21Grams, that has grown rapidly, has a quality differentiation and incredible creativity. These are the things we need to add [to W2O] and that are hard to build one person at a time.”
21Grams CEO Robert Blink said the agency has experienced around 100% growth every year for the past three years. As the agency grew, capabilities like having a global footprint and expanding data and analytics became more important to 21Grams’ clients.
“There were going to be a few challenges that needed to be overcome,” Blink said. “Clients were looking for a real global ask, it’s having boots on the ground and having face-to-face with the [client’s] global team and being able to pull sights from global affiliates. With further expansion, we continued to look at what we could do to enhance our own data and analytics team. These pieces were put together with W2O. We want to better compete with other agencies and to really be at the forefront of change.”
Joining W2O gives 21Grams two European outposts in London and Zurich. The agency will also be able to tap into W2O’s data and analytics capabilities. 21Grams brings its expertise in healthcare advertising and patient and medical education to W2O. The agency also has a vertical dedicated to connecting with patients to learn real insights and better identify patient advocates.
“We have a patient vertical that gives us the ability to identify patients who are able to speak on behalf of the brand,” Blink said. “We are with patients, doing dinners with them in their homes and the insights we get from them are beyond the one-way mirror of market research. We’re really seeing what their lives are like and these insights are being pulled through our campaigns.”
This is W2O’s fourth recent acquisition. At the end of last year, W2O acquired three scientific and medical communications firms, Arcus Medica, ISO.health and Radius Digital Science. The agency also formalized a scientific communications division called W2O Science, where those three firms are housed. These acquisitions, plus 21Grams, have pushed W2O’s staff count over 1,100, Weiss said.
W2O also received a new private equity investment last year. In May, the firm received an undisclosed investment from New Mountain Capital, replacing its previous investor.
“It’s going to be transformative, not just for us, but game changing in the industry,” Weiss said. “It’s a real opportunity to bring all the communications disciplines together for clients in a way they don’t get at [other firms].”