Relevate Health has acquired Axon Communications, bolstering its HCP engagement offering, Relevate said Tuesday

The deal, completed in December, comes a year after Relevate’s acquisition of data and analytics specialist Arteric in December 2020. Private equity firm Mountaingate Capital funded both purchases.

The Axon deal, terms of which were not disclosed, brings head count for Relevate, headquartered in Cincinnati, to over 160. Jeff Spanbauer remains CEO of the combined entity. 

Chris Mutkoski, who cofounded Boston-based Axon in 2006 with wife Laney and has served as its CEO, will continue operating the agency and will join Relevate’s board. He reports to Spanbauer, and plans call for Axon to retain its branding before eventually taking on the Relevate Health name in the next 12 months, Spanbauer said.

“We wanted to keep the continuity with clients. There’s a lot of equity with that brand, so we wanted to integrate it thoughtfully,” he noted.

The tie-up comes at a time when face-to-face access to doctors is on the decline and a number of pharma companies have been reducing their field forces. Yet, many doctors say they value their rep relationships and want rep-delivered services from companies.

Against that backdrop, Mutkoski said, Axon has seen strong demand for its HCP engagement products, which include MyDoc Personalized Patient Education, KOLCast and REPCast for live and remote video capture. Its national digital film crew infrastructure also enables the development of video peer-to-peer and patient education programs.

Those tools, which help traditional reps as well as MSLs and KAMs (key account managers) add value in their personal interactions with HCP offices, are complementary to Relevate’s existing product line, which focuses on locally relevant omnichannel marketing and non-personal promotion (NPP). Brands need a mix of the two to break through the clutter, said Spanbauer.

“Both of us are now going to be able to expand offerings for our existing client base as well as grow that client base,” said Mutkoski.

Combined revenue for Relevate and Arteric rose 18% to $28.2 million in 2020, according to MM+M’s June Agency 100 report.

Asked about future acquisitions, Spanbauer said, “We are aggressively going to pursue additional ways to fill out our capabilities. We want to have tech-enabled, data driven products that we can offer to clients, as well as our agency services, and support clients in a different way than the traditional AOR.”

This story has been updated with additional context, including comments from Relevate Health and Axon Communications executives.