In 2017, Razorfish Health was a “25-year-old newborn,” according to its president David Paragamian. In 2018 and the first months of 2019, the agency rushed head-on into adulthood with the addition of several clients and a newly emerged construct that gives its employees room to grow as well.
“This is an agency that believes in people constantly reinventing themselves,” Paragamian explains. “I talk about this with our employees all the time. People need to be learning every day, every week — working on something new, trying something different. We really believe that the enemy is stagnation and doing things the same way they’ve always been done, just because that’s the way they’ve always been done.”
Razorfish Health’s transformation started in January 2018 when it merged with Publicis Health sibling Discovery USA and continued during the year via significant additions to its executive roster. They included chief strategy officer Carl Turner (who arrived from Publicis LifeBrands Medicus), co-chief client officer Marion Chaplick (from Digitas Health), co-chief client officer Ryan Taggart (from ApotheCom) and chief creative officer John Reid (from Deep Focus by way of Wunderman).
Owing to their unconventional backgrounds, Turner and Reid in particular are reshaping the agency’s creative direction, Paragamian says. “Carl has built out a whole new lens on strategy beyond traditional account planning to include experience strategy and data and analytics, as well as how we can use data and analytics to fuel a story for a client. And John came to us from Wunderman with a consumer background, and brought us this incredible high-bar creative lens. Now he’s helping transform and reinvent what great creative looks like for us,” he explains.
The expanded team enjoyed its share of new-business successes in 2018. Additions included AOR brand launch assignments from Pfizer, Genentech and Eisai, as well as an incremental global assignment from longtime client Sanofi.
“What’s so exciting for us is the fact that we have these big, global clients and we’re launching big brands for them, and yet only three years ago we were a small digital shop,” Paragamian says.
While Razorfish Health’s revenue and staffing levels were flat in 2018, remaining at $75 million and 300 employees respectively, Paragamian attributes this to the conclusion of two relationships. One piece of business was lost to agency consolidation and another was jettisoned due to what Paragamian describes as “a bad behaving client.”
Paragamian sounds almost philosophical as he discusses the consolidation. “Our longstanding oncology work with AstraZeneca is transitioning to someone else — someone else’s gain is our loss. Consolidation happens and we wish everyone well,” he says.
But he stresses his belief that the best is ahead for Razorfish Health. “We had a good year last year. We’re having a good year this year,” he continues. “Even the business that’s departing — if you do the math, we got most of the year from those guys, so it’s going to be a good year. The progress continues.”