Throughout its 30-year-plus history, Closerlook has strived to maintain a startup mentality. In 2018, the agency took this philosophy to a new level, with CEO Dave Ormesher redesigning the company’s workflow to more closely resemble a scrappy tech company than a traditional marketing shop.
Specifically, Closerlook adopted the Agile Method, a project-management style popular among software developers and Silicon Valley types. By the time 2018 came to a close, Closerlook employees had incorporated a slew of new concepts — two-week sprints, daily standups and periodic retrospectives — into their corporate mindset and vernacular.
“It was an important year of reengineering,” Ormesher says.
The overhaul came on the heels of a 16.7% drop in revenue to $20 million at the end of 2017. Though Ormesher declined to share a 2018 revenue, he says things “perked up” for the agency in 2018. MM&M estimates that Closerlook generated $21.5 million in 2018 revenue, which represents a 7.5% increase.
Closerlook hired 35 new full-time employees in 2018, bringing the total staff size to 115. Additions included business analyst (and “Agile wunderkind”) Stephanie Kuta; VP of multichannel marketing strategy Alecia Dantico; and managing director Chris Abtahi.
Many of Closerlook’s structural changes in 2018 built on initiatives spearheaded by CTO Steve Tulk, who arrived in 2017 to facilitate the strategic shift. A key component of that strategy is an increased reliance on machine learning and other tactics commonly grouped under the AI banner.
AI is more than just a fad for Closerlook. Since the early aughts, it has been collecting data on the online behavior of HCPs. The firm can thus tap a treasure trove of information about its response to online marketing strategies and tactics.
“Data analytics has been a part of Closerlook since 2001,” Ormesher says. “We were tracking every time a physician went to a website or went to an ad. Over time, we have built these enormous customer databases.”
Ormesher points to Tulk as the catalyst for the AI push. “When he came here, he began sucking up all the data and making predictive algorithms. Essentially, that’s what AI is,” Ormesher explains.
Closerlook is using those tools to answer complex questions, such as determining the variables that can be tweaked to drive campaign engagement and the frequency with which a campaign should deliver digital messages to create optimal impact. “That is really what’s driving our marketing tactics,” Ormesher says.
Ormesher says he labored over Closerlook’s decision to go all-in on processes and solutions inspired by tech companies. Given his 32-year tenure as agency CEO, he has seen his share of technology fads. “We spent some serious time thinking about where the market is going,” he continues. “That motivated the move to focus on pharma brand planning, digital marketing and marketing intelligence.”
Ormesher is pleased with the progress Closerlook made in 2018 and feels confident the agency is moving in the right direction. “It’s been the right kind of growth. It’s been smart growth,” he says.