Over the course of its 13 years, RevHealth has always prided itself on being a few steps ahead of the competition. For instance, it started snapping up M.D.s and Pharm.D.s several years before the agency world acknowledged the wisdom of upping its in-house medical and scientific expertise.
In 2018, RevHealth may have happened upon another point of competitive differentiation. It soft-launched a third wholly owned unit, Vitruvius Science, designed to fill what the company believes is a void in the marketplace.
Managing partner Bruce Epstein elevator-pitches Vitruvius as “the pre-launch agency for clients in Phase II going into Phase III.” While that may seem like an inordinately thin patch of turf to seize, Epstein makes an excellent case for it as one of the few neglected points on the commercialization continuum.
“In that turn between Phase II and III, the brand manager is going, ‘Wow, work that should be getting done isn’t getting done,’” he explains. “You hear, ‘Nobody knows something new is coming, there’s no list of the right patients, we don’t have the right scientific messaging.’ We think there’s a role for somebody who can help connect everyone who needs to be connected at that very important point — clinical people, medical affairs, marketing, access, everyone.”
Epstein characterizes 2019 as the “revving up” year for Vitruvius and says that the agency has seen similar growth in its access and digital groups. At the end of 2018, the RevHealth mothership counted 152 people under its two Morristown, New Jersey, roofs, up from 130 at the end of 2017. Revenue surged almost 17% in 2018 to $41.1 million from $35.2 million in 2017.
Epstein seems especially pleased that the agency’s growth over the last few years has been deliberate in nature. No client represents more than 10% of RevHealth’s revenue, which represents a reversal from the company’s earliest days.
“When we started the agency, Novartis and Merck were about 70% of our business,” Epstein recalls. “Now we work with Novartis and Merck and a litany of companies, but nobody’s that big. We’re across enough companies now that [a client loss] never causes the damage we think it’s going to cause.” Recent additions included assignments for Takeda, Mylan, UCB, Daiichi Sankyo, Mallinckrodt and Bausch Health.
While Epstein notes with pride that RevHealth “has never missed a raise or had layoffs in 13 years,” he still laments the industry trend toward agency consolidation. “That’s where we sometimes get hurt,” he says. “It’s tough for us to win, because clients in that mode are often looking for global groups that have a name behind them. The hard part is they treat you like you can actually win during the process.”
All things considered, though, Epstein knows he and RevHealth don’t have a lot to complain about. “We’ve always been able to tell the medical story and it’s the medical story that helps people live longer,” he explains. “When you have people with medical backgrounds working on all of your accounts, you can always find things that are really compelling for customers.”