Rapp New York president Justin Thomas-Copeland can’t wait for the day when healthcare marketing agencies stop talking about digital as a distinct entity. “It’s just the way the world is wired,” he says. “But we have that heritage. It’s almost like back to the future for us.”
Approximately 70% of Rapp Well’s 2018 revenue was derived from digital, web and mobile efforts. As health and pharma companies have zeroed in on patient choice, Rapp’s ability to reach individual consumers has positioned it in an enviable place. “There are a lot of commonalities in how we’re thinking about things and what clients are looking for,” Thomas-Copeland says.
That resulted in a good “philosophical” year in 2018 for Rapp, he adds, and a few big wins, including assignments for NUVO and Ascension Health and additional work from longstanding client Pfizer. One year after the launch of the agency’s Rapp Well positioning, revenue increased from $120 million to $130 million, a jump of 8.3%. Thirty-five percent of that 2018 sum, or $45.5 million, came from health-related work, and 220 of the firm’s 650 employees are assigned to health-related work.
For Rapp Well, placing individual experience at the center of strategy requires not only creative thinking and powerful analytical capabilities, but also a degree of bravery from agencies. Thomas-Copeland cites a conversation with a client that wanted to launch a migraine indication targeted at women — but do so in a manner resembling Lululemon’s approach.
“It was a crystallization of so many challenges that we have, that brands have, that the healthcare sector has,” Thomas-Copeland recalls.
That client conversation prompted much questioning and debate among Rapp Well team members: How do you understand the individual whose expectations are being set by brands outside the category? How do you start to create differentiation? “It’s an ongoing challenge that we really have to think about,” Thomas-Copeland continues. “What are the experiences we’re going to create around this drug that will add that next level of value?”
The corporate structure of the Rapp mothership — it has 17 offices worldwide and five in the United States — has helped the company deal with these knotty questions, Thomas-Copeland says. He notes that the Rapp Well team is not siloed in healthcare but rather fully integrated into Rapp at large, which helps bring thinking and inspiration from outside the category into its client work. “Where and how to connect with the consumer goes beyond the category,” he adds.
Recent hires like creative directors Tristan Fitzgerald and Lucas Zaiden have focused on fostering broad creativity when developing teams. Similarly, SVP, marketing sciences Amy Blasco, SVP, marketing sciences, brought her forensic analytics experience to help Rapp Well identify patterns and analyze data, which helps inform insights the agency can bring to its partners.
The agency’s structure also gives employees an opportunity to flex different creative muscles and feel part of a “bigger goal,” which helps Rapp retain talent in a highly competitive industry. “We put an absolute focus on how people feel,” Thomas-Copeland says.