Tracy Zuto and Jill Beene, the pair of associate managing directors who are steering H4B Catapult’s “inspire courage” positioning, aren’t ashamed to admit they spent one of the company’s best moments of 2018 cowering in terror. The occasion: an impromptu agency outing on Halloween, during which Catapult ventured to a local theater to screen a horror flick. The movie may have pushed Zuto and Beene out of their comfort zones but, they say cheerily, they’re all about being good sports in the interest of company harmony.

“Our people are happy,” says Zuto, who also holds the title of executive creative director.

While the competition for A-list agency talent exists across specialties and geographies, it’s especially ferocious in central New Jersey, the home to any number of healthcare agencies and pharma companies. Thus Zuto and Beene embraced the mission of upping Catapult’s attractiveness to potential candidates during 2018.

“People mingle here,” Zuto says. “People move around. You don’t see them sitting.”

The warmth of the environment, she believes, helped fuel the agency’s recent commercial gains. Revenue surged 25% during 2018, to an MM&M-estimated $25 million. While Catapult added only a single client, Zuto reports that “every single brand grew.” Client mainstays include AstraZeneca (on immuno-oncology), Sanofi and Merck.

But management shifts were the year’s biggest news. Beene joined the agency in June 2018 from CDM Princeton and Keith Blood, director of client services, followed in September. “We’ve all worked together in a past life,” says Zuto. “Jill and I are like Thelma and Louise.” 

Beene laughs, then adds, “Minus the driving-off-the-cliff part.” Former EVPs/directors of client services David Newman and Eric Morse both transitioned to other positions within the Havas network.

Given that network parent Havas is owned by Vivendi, Catapult’s leaders are enthused about the cross-pollination between medical and healthcare marketing and the worlds of tech and entertainment. “We can now ask questions like, ‘How can we solve this problem through music? How about through games?’ It’s an exciting type of collaboration,” Zuto explains.

Beene notes those collaborations dovetail nicely with the trend toward experiential activations. “You can’t just run a campaign and expect to get any real traction,” she says, pointing to a need for events and charitable tie-ins. “We’re marketing and connecting the brands we work on. We’re not just advertising them.”

Beene is especially proud of the work Catapult did for TherapeuticsMD, which markets products targeting post-menopausal women. “The condition has long been undertreated and overlooked, and our ideas really put it out in the world,” she says.

Which brings us back to the Halloween episode and the good-natured razzing Zuto and Beene endured. “They kept throwing our agency positioning back in our faces, saying, ‘Oh, you are so courageous,’” Zuto says. “People here consistently have each other’s backs.”