Vivo Agency’s 2018 was defined by the larger transformation of healthcare technology. And because the agency’s presence in the sector — it specializes in devices, diagnostics and health IT products — it is very much along for the ride.

According to EVP Kristin Keller, the device sector lags pharma in two key ways: transitioning from being sales-led to marketing-led and from being product-feature-focused to solutions-focused. Those transitions, Keller believes, “have created a tremendous amount of turmoil in our clients’ lives.” While Vivo sees its role as a driver of change, the overall scope of the situation has produced what she says are “some interesting dynamics and challenges.

“The year wasn’t up or down,” Keller adds. “There were just a lot of changes.”

Specifically, two of Vivo’s biggest clients underwent significant reorganizations. “As with any reorg-type situation, it tends to sort of paralyze the current work that’s going on,” she explains. That paralysis contributed to Vivo’s revenue remaining flat year-over-year at $6 million.

However, the agency did bring on a significant AOR assignment from medical-device company KCI. It also added several new project-based clients, including Pristine Surgical, Realytics, Medela Healthcare and Confluent Medical. The agency continues to work alongside roster mainstays Philips, Roche Diagnostics and Boston Scientific.

Still, Vivo continues to face the challenge of prodding clients to break out of their sales-driven mindsets. “The problem is that it makes you think small and act small,” Keller explains. “Not everybody is ready to make that leap.”

Amid all the industry change, Vivo ramped up its marketing research and creative campaign work. Specifically, Vivo worked on portfolio-level assignments for Gore’s interventional cardiology group and for the respiratory team at Philips. Keller adds that the agency saw an increase in multichannel campaign execution, including digital and integration components.

If all that wasn’t change enough, Vivo also moved its West Coast office from San Francisco to San Diego, within shouting distance of numerous device and diagnostics organizations. Its business is more or less split between the San Diego outpost and its Horsham, Pennsylvania, headquarters.

Internally, Keller says understanding the wants and needs of Vivo employees remains a top priority. A generous benefit program offers employees perks like pet insurance and identity theft insurance, in addition to robust parental leave and unlimited paid time off.

“We’re trying to take away all the barriers to people feeling like they have to make choices that they shouldn’t necessarily have to make,” Keller says. “This helps us develop our culture and attract the best talent we can.”

Going forward, Keller says she wants Vivo to continue to fulfill its mission of serving as a change agent. She expects the agency to sustain its current engagements while bringing on new clients that are ready to make the transition to a marketing-led approach.

“Making sure people know that we’re here, and that we’re able to help them through this difficult transition, is key,” she says.