When Paul Hagopian and Jonathan Peischl walked away from Giant Creative Strategy to open their own agency in 2016, they knew they would be starting from scratch. That’s no mere figure of speech: Both men had signed non-compete agreements that prohibited them from bringing their former clients to the newly founded company, which they dubbed Splice Agency.
“We started with nothing,” says Peischl, “and it was kind of scary.”
In those early days, armed with just a P.O. box and no clients, they had plenty of time to ponder the state of the medical marketing industry. Ultimately, this proved very fortunate for Splice’s evolution: Hagopian and Peischl passed the hours thinking deeply about what the agency could bring to the table.
Eventually they settled on a mantra: One voice, one mind. Given how so many pharma companies operate in fractured silos — the sales team doesn’t talk to the IT department, which doesn’t communicate with marketing, etc. — Splice would be the “rallying point in the center,” Peischl says.
With the mission and a core team in place, the San Francisco-based agency landed its first major client, Puma Biotechnology. Splice shepherded the young biotech through its first commercial launch. It was a great fit: As a Bay Area-based biotech, Puma was the prototypical ambitious clinical-stage company hoping to catapult from R&D to launch overnight.
“West Coast biotech companies are not only doing R&D, but they’re commercializing — and that’s where we fit in,” says Hagopian. Peischl adds, “We were in their office with them, helping them drive the marketing.”
Later, Splice began working on pre-launch products from Rigel Pharmaceuticals and Santen Pharmaceutical, and helped manage a new indication for a Stryker device. More recently, Splice has been working on a suite of iPad-based content for Sunovion.
The agency, which had revenue of only about $250,000 during its first year, generated $2.5 million by the end of 2017. That figure jumped to $6.4 million in 2018 — a 156% increase, for those counting at home.
Things have similarly changed around the office. In 2017, Splice consisted of a small skeleton crew working alongside a cadre of freelancers. By the end of 2018, the agency had 27 full-time employees.
As Splice expanded, Hagopian and Peischl went out of their way to maintain the fun-loving culture of the agency’s early days.
“East Coast companies, they just grind,” Hagopian explains. “I believe in the idea that truly satisfied employees produce great work, which then produces happy clients.”
One of the perks of working at Splice is a $1,000 “adventure learning” bonus, which employees are encouraged to spend on scuba diving lessons, Spanish classes, art school or anything else they’ve always wanted to splurge on. “The business of creativity doesn’t have to be painful,” says Peischl.