Ashfield Healthcare Communications has rebranded as Ashfield Health, streamlining its 20 or so agency brands into seven and tapping McCann Health vet Amar Urhekar to lead the organization.

As part of the move, Ashfield has created two new large agencies, Ashfield MedComms and Mind+Matter. Overall, the new Ashfield Health will employ nearly 1,500 people.

The company has similarly overhauled its visual identity and branding, rallying around a cry of “make it matter.”

“The identity is simple, ownable and transferable,” Urhekar said, adding with a laugh, “I can finally explain it to my 11-year-old.”

At the same time, Urhekar stressed that the changes don’t amount to a full-scale rethinking of a company that’s been growing by leaps and bounds. Two years ago, Ashfield Healthcare Communications reported North American revenue of $115 million in 2018, which represented a 37% jump from the $83.7 million of the year prior.

“This is not a restructure, not a reorganization,” Urhekar said. “The leadership stays as it is.”

Ashfield Health global growth director Simon Hackett agreed, adding, “Clients are changing. They need to be agile and move quicker.”

Still image from Ashfield Health’s introductory ‘Make It Matter’ video

Hackett was previously a business unit head within Ashfield Healthcare Communications’ international arm. He’ll serve as one of Ashfield’s primary public voices alongside global marketing manager Chad Benditz, previously manager of marketing and promotional content at Ashfield-owned MicroMass Communications.

The move to whittle down the number of Ashfield brands was long in coming, with Hackett likening the previous structure to a “pea soup” of brands. “We’re building an agency team that’s fit for today,” he said.

The seven agency brands comprising the new Ashfield Health are:

  • Ashfield MedComms, which houses 700 people in 12 offices across the U.S., U.K. and Germany. Fourteen Ashfield agency brands, mostly from outside the U.S., have been spun into the MedComms unit.
  • CanaleComm, a San Diego-based strategy shop with a focus on emerging organizations. 
  • Create NYC, a New York-based organization with a large contributor network at its disposal and a knack for reinvigorating so-called mature brands. Ashfield acquired Create NYC in July 2018.
  • Galliard, a scientific-minded PR and comms firm based in London.
  • Incisive Health, a policy shop with outposts in London and Brussels.
  • MicroMass, one of the industry’s first agencies to recognize the importance of behavioral health marketing. The North Carolina-based company was snapped up by Ashfield in September 2017 for more than $70 million.
  • Mind+Matter, which consolidates more than 250 data and creative types under roofs in Boston, New York and Oakland in the U.S. and Brighton and Manchester in the U.K. The former Ashfield brands coming together to form Mind+Matter are Cambridge BioMarketing (the purchase of which kicked off Ashfield’s acquisition binge in July 2017), Ashfield Digital and Creative, and Pegasus.

In particular, the creation of the full-service Mind+Matter is likely to generate considerable interest among clients hoping to marry data and analytics know-how with creative moxie. Former CBM president Ben Beckley will lead the new agency, alongside managing director, U.S. East Coast Carina Whitridge (formerly director, client services at CBM); managing director, U.S. West Coast Alyse Sukalski (formerly managing director at CBM); managing director, U.K. Corrina Safeio (formerly managing director at Pegasus); global head of experience Annemarie Crivelli (formerly chief experience officer at CBM); and global creative director Alisa Shakarian (formerly chief creative officer at CBM).

As for the elimination of the venerable Cambridge BioMarketing brand, Urhekar acknowledges that “there’s always some level of tension when you’re doing this level of change.” At the same time, he believes Ashfield [Health’s] transparency around the process – and the potential inherent in the Mind+Matter offering – won over the skeptics.

“For Cambridge BioMarketing, the question was how to evolve beyond [being] a rare-disease company,” he explained. “In general, if you don’t step up and evolve, you’re going to fall back.” Hackett, for his part, described the integration process as “surprisingly fluid, because everybody believes in the purpose and strategy.”

Urhekar arrives at Ashfield following a McCann Health tenure that spanned, in his words, “19 years, four continents and five countries.” He was lured by Ashfield’s recent growth spurt as well as by the potential to create a genuinely differentiated network offering.

“I was interested in the possibility of doing something different,” Urhekar said. “I know that’s the most cliché thing to say when somebody leaves one job, but it’s true.”