Longtime Ogilvy Health leader Kate Cronin is leaving the organization to serve as Moderna’s chief brand officer. She spent 17 years at the agency and led it as global CEO following her promotion from co-president in October.

Despite Ogilvy Health’s size and prestige — according to MM+M’s Agency 100 revenue chart, it ranked as the industry’s 12th-biggest firm, with estimated 2020 revenue of $145 million — it’s not difficult to understand the appeal of the Moderna job. Two years ago, the company was largely unknown outside the worlds of pharma and biotech; now, millions of people literally have Moderna vaccine running through their veins.

While Cronin stressed her affection for and belief in Ogilvy Health – “I’ve given my heart and soul and will always love this agency,” she said – the Moderna opportunity proved a powerful lure.

“It’s an amazing company with brilliant people, and they’re changing the world with their science. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment: I took a deep breath and said, ‘Yes, I’m in.'”

Not surprisingly, the Moderna brand is tightly tied to the role the company has played in the vaccination effort. A big part of Cronin’s charge, then, will be to broaden that perception, especially as Moderna continues to establish itself as a leader in supplying mRNA vaccines and therapeutics.

“Everybody knows the company and the mRNA science,” Cronin said. “But it’s about the potential of that science as well – not just the COVID vaccine and what they’ve achieved, but how the science can help across a number of different disease categories. They’ve only just begun.”

In her new role, which officially commences on July 12, Cronin will lead all brand and communications activities. She noted the difference in size between her Moderna team (“very flat, not a lot of people”) and the 1,000-plus people around the world dedicated to health at Ogilvy. “We have to figure out what we’re building and what we’re buying from the agencies,” she said.

Of course, now that Moderna is as much a household name as any company in health, Cronin and her team face a unique set of challenges.

“We’re basically the best-known startup you’ve ever heard of,” she said. “But that’s an interesting point, in that Moderna is associated with saving the world from COVID. It’s like, ‘What else do you got?’ That’s where I come in, to help frame the science in a way that brings people along and helps them understand how transformative it is and how it can be applied.”

“I’m test-driving the storytelling on my mother,” Cronin added with a laugh.

Prior to serving as global CEO, Cronin held a variety of roles at Ogilvy, including global managing director and managing director of Ogilvy PR’s New York office. She was inducted into MM+M’s Hall of Femme in 2020. Cronin was co-president at Ogilvy Health alongside Andrew Schirmer, who recently joined GSW as head of the firm’s New York office.

“It’s hard to be surprised that Kate’s talents garnered the attention of one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies,” said Ogilvy global CEO Andy Main in a statement. “While we are sad to be losing her, we are excited about the ways she will be able to help impact the world in her new role. We have a great team with a depth of talent and look forward to making further leadership announcements in the coming weeks.”

This story has been updated.