We’ve grown accustomed to hearing about Klick Health, the decoded company. We’re inured to the notion of Klick the events producer, habituated to Klick the startup incubator and almost comfortable with Klick the product developer. For reference on the aforementioned boundary-stretching examples, feel free to Google “genome intranet,” “Klick Muse,” “Klick Circulation” and “SymPulse Tele-Empathy Device,” respectively.
But if the last two decades have proven this outfit can break the mold and expand beyond the conventional definition of a healthcare marketing agency, then in 2018 the firm doubled down on what it takes to make a creative impact, too — and that’s people.
“The very first priority of our company always has been to be a center of gravity for incredible talent, so everything starts with the team you create,” says Klick president Lori Grant.
The agency added three marquee names in 2019: media pro Dave Leitner, hired last month as SVP of media from MDC Partners’ Allegory, and creative vet Rich Levy, who joined as chief creative officer after a decade at FCB Health; and Dr. Dan Drexler, who signed on as managing director after most recently being CEO and founder of The Neighborhood, a WPP company that worked on Johnson & Johnson. The agency, however, lost Elliot Langerman, formerly chief creative commercial officer of the NYC office, who decamped for Area 23 last September.
Upon joining Klick in May, Levy told MM&M that Klick’s roots in technology appealed to him and that he believes data is an important component in the creativity mix. “I’ve tried to build my whole career around finding new ways to solve problems for clients, and the data science and creativity apparent at Klick will help me do that,” he said at the time. “Klick’s heritage in data science will help us take all this information and make the best solutions from it.”
Klick also evolved some of its core offerings, such as medical and strategy. Among the five execs added to that team last year were Dr. Joseph Barbagallo from CDM and Dr. Michael Lieberman from Area 23. Klick now claims it houses the largest single medical team integrated across a full-service agency in the world.
Finally, the agency deepened its creative bench, welcoming six new creative directors and a studio director, along with managed markets ace Casey McCann as director of value access and reimbursement. All told, staff count surged from 700 to 742.
It’s not for nothing that the shop has become one of the true agency-world talent epicenters at a time when competition for personnel has become even crazier than usual. “That’s allowed us to lean into the entrepreneurial spirit that we as a company have consistently had,” Grant explains.
She adds that new additions will invariably cite the desire to get back to doing the very thing that made them successful in the first place. “It’s not optics, but outcomes,” is the way she puts it.
Those outcomes have manifested in the form of some acclaimed work. Take 2017’s The Wrestler, an unbranded DTC effort for Novartis which used humor to help people with GI issues. Or take the Lighter Blue social media campaign created on behalf of Lundbeck and Takeda for MDD drug Trintellix (née Brintellix), which has been hailed as one of pharma’s most successful social-first initiatives. Then there was Merck’s 2018 Versed awareness effort around HPV, a millennial-oriented educational effort which spawned what was reported as the first pharma Snapchat campaign as well as an unbranded campaign on Instagram.
Taken together, Grant says these are “proof points” that Klick, long known for its data and technology chops, is making a creative name for itself. “When you create impact for clients, they reward you with more business. That’s fuel for incredible growth,” she adds.
Indeed, revenue shot up 20.1% to $287 million in 2018, from $239 million the year prior. And although the privately held firm doesn’t typically share details about its clients, it says 92% of revenue growth in 2018 was organic.
That momentum has continued into 2019, Grant reports. “The first quarter of this year was the largest quarter in the history of our company. March was the largest month.”
As a way of thanking its employees for their efforts, Klick created what Grant characterizes as an annual-report-meets-high-school-yearbook to provide team members with a tangible, memorable keepsake of their accomplishments. To generate personalized photo spreads of staff members and their closest colleagues, the company used AI to tag photos from team events and built algorithms (using calendar and other work data) to surface the right photos in the right staffer’s book.
The yearbook was debuted at a town hall event, part of an internal events slate which includes training programs on leadership and science (going in-depth on the therapeutic areas the agency is working on). As team members picked up their yearbooks, they were serenaded by “Klick Concerto No. 1 in A.I.” — a Klick symphony, as it were, created with the Hollywood Philharmonic using what Grant calls the “creative application of data science.”
To emphasize its innovation bona fides, in April Klick unveiled its Adaptive Brand Playbook, which compiles the collective wisdom of the company’s two-plus decades at the nexus of health marketing and technology. Consisting of a 21-inch, high-definition video player and 230-page glossy print playbook — and housed in a 40-pound Plexiglas case — the Brand Playbook was delivered to the doorsteps of about a thousand biopharma brand managers this past spring. The content walks readers through Klick’s molecule-to-commercialization process for drug marketing.
“The ABP was designed to make a definitive case for the agency’s offerings and, in the process, raise the marketing acumen of the entire industry,” Grant says.
What’s next for the agency/decoded company/event producer/startup incubator/product developer? The company just signed on as sponsor of the TED Interview, hosted by TED curator Chris Anderson. “We, too, are on a mission of ideas and understanding,” Grant says.
Klick is also expecting results from clinical trials of Health Voyager, the medical education and patient experience platform it created in partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital. The platform uses VR technology to give patients customized 3-D tours inside their bodies.
“Here we are in our 22nd year, and we continue to transcend what’s possible for marketing today,” says Grant. “That is something we have always aspired to.”