When asked for a big-picture assessment of his company’s fortunes in 2018, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness president JD Cassidy says that it was a year which “continued a heritage that we’ve had.” He’s talking about the agency’s work on venerable over-the-counter brands — and in particular its relationship with consumer packaged goods giant Procter & Gamble.
In 2017, when Publicis sibling Publicis LifeBrands Medicus was folded into S&S Wellness, the newly merged agency claimed the AOR assignment for P&G’s oral care division. Last year, the agency picked up another P&G unit, this time as creative AOR for the personal healthcare division, which includes category-leading brands such as Metamucil and Vicks.
“Our heritage is not just pharma brands, but greater OTC and wellness brands as well,” Cassidy says. “Bringing that entire portfolio on was exciting for us.”
Other new work arrived from more traditional pharma-agency targets. Novo Nordisk tapped S&S Wellness for the launch of its oral semaglutide, a pill to manage type 2 diabetes and prevent cardiovascular events. Similarly, Alcon named the agency AOR for eye-care professionals.
The year wasn’t without its headaches on the client front, though. Like many of its peers, S&S Wellness had to deal with the scourge of client consolidations, losing two accounts in the process. “We were on the outside looking in for a couple of them, which just further emphasizes how much relationships matter,” Cassidy shrugs.
Overall, S&S Wellness grew revenue by 5.6% in 2018, to an MM&M-estimated $95 million from last year’s revised estimate of $90 million. Staff size surged by 35 people, to 355 full-timers.
As opposed to many of its big-agency peers, S&S Wellness has seen little movement in its management ranks. Cassidy believes the stability that comes with having a long-serving senior leadership team helps contribute to client satisfaction — and the organic growth that often accompanies it.
“We’ve got a leadership team that’s now been together for several years, which is one of the things that helped further fuel the client relationships that we have,” he explains. “When you have that high degree of comfort and satisfaction, and the stability that the rest of the agency enjoys, everybody benefits.”
Meanwhile, as the healthcare industry grapples with its movement toward value-based pricing, Cassidy is mulling how to implement a similar pricing model for client work. “Instead of focusing on the value of the work and the impact of the work, we’re focused on how many hours it takes to deliver the work,” he says. “There are opportunities to talk with our clients about how we evolve these engagement models.”
Among the questions the agency is asking itself: How does it measure the value of what it is delivering? How does it incorporate the impact of outcomes in its pricing? “There’s a real opportunity there to reorient ourselves around the value of the work we’re producing and not make it as transactional as it currently is,” Cassidy adds.