Being a part of a more than a $1 billion network and having 28 offices across North America gives Merkle Health a head start right out of the gate. But it’s the agency’s ever-expanding list of services that have added to the bottom line in recent years, according to SVP, GM David Magrini.
Merkle Health added media planning and buying and data science capabilities to its lineup in 2018. It also unveiled M1 for Merkle Health, a health-based version of its existing people-based insights, planning, activation and measurement platform.
“We’ve leveraged the technology that already exists, but doubled down on how that can be used for insight, media executions and additional audience planning, both from a consumer and a HCP perspective,” Magrini explains. He describes it as a “health-specific version” of a platform that has already been extensively deployed outside the space, to great results.
These additions helped propel the agency, which is part of the Dentsu Aegis Network, past the $100 million milestone. It generated $110 million in health-related revenue during 2018, representing a 14% bump over last year’s sum of $96.2 million. Staff size grew from 368 at the end of 2017 to 400 at the end of 2018.
On the client front, Merkle Health added nine new assignments, which ran its total to 114 total (48 AOR relationships and 66 project-based). Magrini is particularly proud of the addition of Cancer Treatment Centers of America — which, he notes, was onboarded in fewer than six weeks. “It was a huge accomplishment, because we did it in a very efficient manner over a short period of time. That was fast and furious from an SEM perspective as well as from a national and regional TV point of view on the media side,” he adds.
Other recent additions to the Merkle Health roster included Takeda, Cedars Sinai, Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Mercy for Animals, Cigna Dental, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Reckitt Benckiser. Dignity Health and Delta Dental were the two client relationships that ended in 2018.
Along with the addition of account directors and the like, Merkle Health effected a trio of notable personnel changes during 2018. Peter Randazzo was promoted to global chief technology officer, while Kent Groves became VP, lead U.S. and global healthcare strategy practice. New hires included SVP, creative director, performance creative Frank Iqbal, who was previously chief creative officer at Rapp Worldwide.
Heading into the second half of 2019, Magrini says Merkle Health plans to continue with its focus on the benefits of personalization. Yet he stresses that the agency will keep a watchful eye on changes at Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle, Google and — of course — Amazon.
“What Amazon does going forward will represent a big, big change for all of the brands that we work with,” Magrini says. “We have to tee up on that and understand what’s going on, and provide the right thought leadership and guidance to our pharma clients and non-pharma clients in the space.”