In September of 2017, MicroMass Communications was acquired by Irish pharmaceutical services company UDG Healthcare and placed in UDG’s Ashfield Healthcare Communications network. In 2018, that started to pay off for the Cary, North Carolina-based agency.
Being part of the larger UDG/Ashfield organization enabled MicroMass to support its behavioral science-informed approach to marketing with more and better data — not to mention with access to a larger pool of medical professionals. By tapping into its sister companies,
MicroMass was able to broaden its offerings to include expertise from nurse specialists and scientific medical directors, as well as pre-commercial market research and data from call center surveys.
“It was in 2018 that we really learned what being part of Ashfield was,” says MicroMass CEO Phil Stein. “They let us operate as an independent agency and we can access resources when we need them.”
The increased capabilities enabled MicroMass to add AOR engagements for more clients, which was part of a purposeful strategic shift. “We want to be the patient-engagement AOR,” says MicroMass president Alyson Connor. MM&M estimates that MicroMass generated $30.5 million in 2018 revenue, the same as it did in 2017.
The agency grew its relationships with a trio of existing clients: Sanofi, UCB and Lexicon Pharmaceuticals. The addition of Pharmacyclics to the client roster was particularly gratifying, according to Connor, because it showcased the agency’s nimbleness and its ability to position itself as a long-term partner.
“Clients are frustrated with the traditional big agencies,” she explains. “We have more resources than we did as an independent agency, but we still function as an independent. Clients get the A-team every time. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Stein and Connor view MicroMass’ location as another advantage, especially for recruiting and retaining talent. Cary is located in the middle of the so-called Research Triangle, home to Duke, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State.
To put it another way: There’s less direct competition for the brightest minds. “We get a number of folks who move down here from New York,” Connor says. “It’s a better quality of life and it’s more affordable, plus you can still do great agency work.”
Looking ahead, MicroMass’ leadership team feels that the agency is well-positioned to meet the needs of pharma clients, especially as the industry trends toward patient empowerment and programs that go beyond the proverbial pill.
“That is connecting with what we’re already doing,” Connor says. “We’re using evidence-based behavioral strategies. We have academic research that says you get, say, 30% better engagement using this type of behavioral strategy through this channel. We can take that to clients, who are dealing with the challenge of better engaging patients who are trying to self-diagnose with Dr. Google, and create better solutions.”