The days of the traditional agency model are dying. Hybrid agencies offering services that include strategy, data analytics and technology and position themselves as an extension of a client’s marketing team have the greatest opportunity for success. These hybrids are better equipped to provide personalized and integrated solutions that meet the evolving needs of their clients.

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Larry I’ll give you a cue here. Mmm agency 100 Studio sessions it Vision. Okay, we’re rolling.

Hello, my name is Larry dobrow. I’m the Editor in Chief of mmm and I am ready for you to plug into this episode of the agency 100 Studio sessions a new podcast series, which gives members of the mmm agency 100 and opportunity to rip on what sets them apart.

We’ve got a terrific one today. We have Matt Swanson and DD discard who are the founders and leaders of ituvision. I

knew vision

Matt Didi welcome. Thank you Larry.

Hi. Thanks so much for having

us so glad to have you here today. It’s funny. We were talking a little bit before we went on the air about the origins of the agency and how it came from a different place than a lot of agencies do why don’t we start with that? What led to the birth of the by two visions hybrid agency model? Well

before we go through the birth of how we went hybrid and how we actually came out of that really quite successfully. I think it’s probably best first to explain it to vision and it’s Inception because it happened right before the pandemic even happened. So the whole idea regarding IQ Vision at the time that we built it was

A couple of key opinion leaders had approached me and after knowing that we had that I had successfully exited with Carlin Communications and through that transaction. They came to me and asked me whether or not I might be interested in starting another agency under the idea that these key opinion leaders were spending a lot of time advising different pharmaceutical companies in many parts of their life cycle whether or not it was startup or later on towards commercialization giving advice to these companies and then these companies would pass over that advice to whatever incumbent agency and quite frankly these key opinion leaders said then frequently are our feedback is just really kind of screwed up from there. So, you know, we really think that there what might be an opportunity for you.

To develop an agency that really kind of gets it from square one that really kind of understands not just what our feedback is but really the context behind our feedback and helping to create stronger more meaningful narratives for these many different companies that we advise for and that was really kind of the Inception with it Vision in the very beginning and then when it started then you know shortly thereafter. That’s when the pandemic happened. I’ll pass it over to Matt because Matt was really the was and is the leader but particularly coming into the pandemic.

Yeah Matt from your perspective. How did this evolve? How did you come to where we are today? You know, I think DD touched on one of the key things, right and that is our partnership with with key opinion leaders as we brought this company together and one of the unique positions that put us in was to be able to engage with clients when they’re still early on in the clinical development stage right when they’re coming out of phase one or we’re in phase two where we really were helping them.

Understand really what their data was telling them and exactly what they had and how we could help them position this product in the marketplace. And what should they be thinking about and who should they be talking to and where is the right place for them to get their information out? So we had this opportunity and we continue to have this opportunity to engage with clients at a really critical level in in productive development. And then that transcends as you know, our clients move closer and closer to commercialization, you know, we can continue to be that strategic guide all the while having capabilities of a full service agency to execute on many different levels. So that’s in my view really kind of where the hybridization was formed and as we then brought people into the organization as we started to grow and start at the scale as a company we looked for people that could handle the versatility of what we are asking them and meeting them to do right which is be strategic but also be action-minded and and you know deliverable.

Mind it if you will the timing of I2 Visions founding in a way that that help you I mean it was before the pandemic it was before, you know, a lot of I mean at this time last year any conversation that we had for the agency 100 was essentially like hey, do you know anybody if so, can you please tell us the name like well, you know, give us a little fever recruitment we can talk, you know, but tell me a little bit about how the timing worked to your benefit for the development of the agency and hiring its people. Yeah. I mean, I think in some cases it works it works to our behalf and in some cases it worked against us, right, you know, certainly it works against you a little bit because I still think being in front of people shaking hands smiling and that that human contact is really really important whether you’re recruiting somebody someone to come in your organization or whether you’re engaging with a client or key opinion leader or even a fellow colleague, right? So we missed that in the in the early stages of the organization certainly, but

But where it helped I think is you know, even from just a operations cost standpoint not having you know as a small company not having to have an office not having to pay rent not having to do a lot of the things that we would have to do say pre-covid where our initial thought would have been as soon as we have any kind of critical mass. We need an office. Right? We’ve we’ve been able to kind of work through that and and offset some costs which I think this as has helped us.

I think one of the other key areas though too is uniquely to I2 Vision both Matt and I as the

Founders and leaders of the company is that we both come from the client side and we both recently came from the client side. And I think that as the world was really kind of crashing down around us in the beginning of the pandemic because of the fact that we’ve been on the client side. We already had a general feel about what clients were experiencing. We were actually I we were both each on the client side when the pandemic for started and so therefore as the different pharmaceutical companies were starting to really kind of get used to the same normal rather than having to explain to an agency who generally gets the sense of that feeling as they’re walking through the halls with their clients. We didn’t have to do that because we were in the Halls we were working in the halls of clients, as you know, as franchise heads as be peace of marketing, you know, those are the rules that we were playing and so we kind of already got more or less spidey sense or Jiminy crickets about what was gonna that’s for them as you know versus what wasn’t gonna make sense for

them to a certain extent was the founding of the company.

Did it happen in response to some of the things that you saw being on the client side, you know saying all right, you know we work with this agency. They can do X and Y but they can’t do Z was that was that a part of it?

Well, I would say that that’s generally been My Philosophy from the very beginning since I started on the agency side back in the days when it was met accidents and her Sona. I’ve always had the opinion of

All agencies are very good. They’re very talented in their own way. But the agency that really can appreciate what the experience of the client is by actually having client-side experience. Those are going to be the ones I think that are going to tend to you know, bubble up to the top. I think in terms of providing the most value to clients

Matt, I’d love to get your take on the same thing. I couldn’t agree more. I mean the ability to have a conversation with a client knowing that you’ve sat in their exact position and understand the challenges that they’re facing and knowing that they need to satisfy, you know, a CEO of a major organization and knowing they’ve got marketing plans to build and having walked through that process, you know, did you not having walked through that process multiple multiple times. It really helps us because we can speak a language that you know people who haven’t come up on the client side can speak really

and it permeates the cross everything that we do even write down to like for example, the sow process. There are times that agency we’ll go through it’s normal process of developing.

Scenes and things like that for an sow but when you’ve got a client eye, you know, you imagine yourself like man could I pass the red taste test the passing this you know, and sometimes so yeah, I would be honest, you know, sometimes the answers and emphatic. No, there’s no way and so you’re able to catch those kinds of things before it even sees the eyes of the client.

Does it allow you to operate with almost more Candor, you know being like hey, you know, I was sitting where you were here’s why I’m telling you this idea that you’ve got maybe a little off and something like that.

Yeah, but it really kind of depends on the client though because sometimes when you have that kind of Candor symptoms, it might come off as condescending. So we want to be very careful about that. But in general, you know, I think that the way we package things and even write down to sometimes, you know, we’ll offer to our client like hey, you know, listen what we’ll write the cover letter for you that’ll go that’ll circulate internally and we’ll write it as if I were the product manager or the director of marketing or the head of medical Affairs or something like that

when you have the ability to communicate with a client in the language that you speak in and do things that that they would do without them even anticipating or knowing that you do it. You can surprise your client a lot of the time and I think one of the things that Deedee and I can offer as a partnership and again we can support as an agency is you know, that that thought process where we’ll sometimes think of things or think of opportunities or think of challenges at the same speed our clients are thinking about them because we literally do okay, you know, I am so and so from such a you know from xyc company

What is my perspective on this what am I thinking and and put ourselves on that position? And it really enables us to develop a like-minded thought process with our with our clients and it’s very appreciated.

The agency is about four years old now and you know, certainly it was a you know, you started the company then there was a pandemic and like here we are. Now what we’re what were some of beyond the obvious one the pandemic what were some of the other challenges along the way as you built the company into what it is now.

Of the challenges, I think building a company virtually is building culture and Dean are both huge Believers in in culture and we’ve both come from organizations where there have been great cultures and we’ve both work for organizations where the culture hasn’t been as strong and one of the things that we wanted to ensure at I too was that people are fulfilled here. They feel valued that they enjoy each other and we always wanted to bring people into the organization that not only could deliver, you know on an execution basis, but also could add value to our engagements on a day-to-day basis, right? And that that’s a little bit more challenging when all you’re engagements is like our conversation here where we’re virtually talking to each other camera screen and we’ve taken advantage of Technology as much as we can. But I think that’s been one of the biggest cultures and we’ve had to make really a dedicated move to ensure that we come together at certain points during the year just to you know, build bonds and break bread together and and and do things that you just can’t do virtually and I think that’s one of the biggest

Is that that we’ve had as a company kind of growing as a company in a virtual environment?

It’s kind of twofold. It’s exactly what makes talking about. What I’m sure is something that all agencies have experiences how to maintain or even build a culture when everybody’s virtual but I think that what’s unique about i2vision.

is you know and if I can reflect on you know, some of the interviews that I have had when I’m interviewing the candidate to join our team one of the things that I always tend to tell candidates is Hey listen, you know you you know, you may come here and you may end up finding yourself that you’re going to be an extraordinary account supervisor or an extraordinary Publications manager, you know, but but what I’m what I’m gonna promise you here at i2vision is that I’m gonna make you a great commercial strategist or I’m going to coach you and to becoming a great medical Affairs just

Because I think that that’s something very different now back in the day before the pandemic. It was easy to be able to demonstrate that because they can see that in their body language. They can see that the operations that surround you it’s really hard to really convince a candidate that you’re only seeing on the screen of trust me. Trust me. I know what I’m doing. Trust me trust me. He knows what he’s doing Jump On In The Waters warm. That’s I think that was a little bit of the hard part

to that end. What were some of the strategies that worked? How did you get people to have that trust to you know, say all right DDM at they very clearly know what they’re doing. I’m gonna follow even if I’m doing so from afar, I I think people inherently want to grow and develop as individuals and I think when you pose opportunities to them like that while it may be frightening initially, I think people quickly realize well, I can really grow and develop as a professional and and this is a small enough company where I’m Gonna Get You Know unlike a gigantic agency where somebody’s gonna have a little piece of a little project.

Our team is going to be exposed to every element they’re going to be exposed to multiple different clients and they’re going to be engaged in a huge variety of different types of projects. And and so, you know to DD’s point you bring people in that, you know are capable and that’s what you draw out during the interview process and you know, they’re eager and that’s what you draw it as well. They tend to be excited about the opportunity to say. Wow. This is going to take me as a professional to the next level.

I also think that like sometimes sometimes the simple things too. I mean, we have a policy within our organization that videos always need to be on

You know and and then funny enough that kind of iterates into that next level of realizing that hey if the videos are on you need a real you need to realize that the cameras on you. So you’re facial expression and every and and every single work and smug look you look we see it

the ball seeing how this backfires right all the time.

All right, you know, but it even comes down to the client interaction. We became a lot more sensitive to if they see four or five different people on the agency side with a one or two single clients. We’re like, Hey, listen, if you’re there and your picture has got the same size as my picture and you’re saying nothing. Maybe you shouldn’t be there.

Absolutely, you know,

really kind of raising the bar about just not just even being there and showing up but you know, making sure that you’re bringing value.

We were talking a little bit about this before we hit record the nature of client engagements and how

Have shifted over the last couple years, especially, you know, some of the things that we just talked about what characterizes a good client engagement now, these are be a good client engagement in 2019.

I can I’m happy to take the first step at this

point. You should take the first step at that one.

Describe as a really good client engagement now.


idea, um Solutions are iterative. So, you know, I think gone are the days of when you have to spec something out to its finest detail and then you find yourself as an agency talking about what’s in scope. And what’s out of scope. I mean, I think that that’s something that’s important, especially from a financial standpoint, but it’s not necessarily thoughtful of the even now Ever Changing environment now compounded with this new hybrid environment that we all find ourselves in.

So what I think is is most important is you know, Matt and I always laugh about it. We always say that we are professional whole Pluckers.

We may we interact with a client under the guys that we think that we’re solving one particular issue, but over the course of the conversation we realize hey, that’s not the issue that we’re solving at all. We’re actually solving this issue instead and having the flex to be able to do that in a way that’s meaningful to the client but still profitable for the agency. I think that that’s really been kind of been one of the key areas of evolution for us that we’re still learning from but also quite frankly that we’re also differentiating ourselves from other agencies,

I would agree and I would also say is a small, you know growing agency and and I see the nature of the client agency relationship changing a little bit where if you go back a decade ago, you know, it’s mostly gigantic aor type of relationships. But yeah now as as I think that clients especially in our industry are starting to understand the value of

Specialty and intelligence in the companies they choose to partner with so we find that a lot of our engagements and we work with a lot of different companies tend to be more ongoing Project work rather than aor type of work and and you know, the good thing about that is it it means we’re always on to deliver. We we don’t ever feel like we we’re never getting a softball, you know, every project we take on this Challenge and it’s our job to deliver and you know, exceed our our clients expectations on that job. And so it it causes us the constantly be sharp and find as as an organization to that point based on what both of you just shared what characterizes the best client relationships that you have on what are some of the things that I to Vision can do that, you know, maybe agencies of that are bigger or more networked or whatever you want to call it can’t

In my opinion the especially for for an organization, like ours the best client engagements and the best client relationships are those that and it’s gonna sound try right? But it’s it’s where there’s a real partnership. It’s where the client is willing to look at you and say I understand the value that I’m bringing and I’m not just gonna push directions at you and and have you be in order taker and executor of projects, right? We’re gonna we’re gonna hash this out together. I’m gonna listen to your input you’re gonna listen to mine and we’re gonna come to resolution on the best way to do things and come to those conclusions together and we have numerous relationships like that and they’re exceptionally productive on both sides both for us and for the client DD. What do you think?

I would probably say that I wouldn’t be doing my job. Well if I didn’t

Appreciate and be in and if I wasn’t intimate with that client’s external environment to the same degree that the client is now I realized that on the agency side. I may not know all the internal working set that that may be putting pressure on the client. You know, I can certainly appreciate it and sympathize with it. But I’m you know, I can’t necessarily empathize because I don’t know that particular situation but externally to how their customers are thinking and feeling how they’re key opinion leaders are thinking and feeling even Patient Advocates if I don’t know that as well as my clients do that. I’m in the wrong business.

All right, Didi. I think you mentioned earlier in a conversation. I think you described yours and Matt’s role as um, I think the wording was professional hole pluggers. Tell me a little bit about a big hole a big problem that the ituvision team has solved in the last year.

Oh man, but he didn’t put on the spot on this one. Gosh, you know, I feel as if every day we’re whole or plug in somebody just off the top of my head just a recently recent client engagement that we have actually it is one of our agency of record clients, you would think at agency of record, you know, we’re gonna do the standard things like brand development corporate identity development blah blah, but it turns out over the course of the conversation. They were sitting on a lot of data that just simply wasn’t published, you know, and at the same time they also had already a kind of a growing number of physician Advocates that were the opposite of Advocates they were physician to centers and so as we were starting to think about more the more traditional brand development things, we’re like, no, you know what listen we need to kind of shore up some of the Loose Ends that you got going on here because

Really kind of doesn’t matter what we do from a brand standpoint. If we have all of this dissension that’s going on. We’re going to end up, you know being like fish, you know swimming Upstream. We need we kind of need to take this as a very holistic kind of way and that would be an example of where we just we plug holes along the way as we start to move 14, you know, two steps forward then we start to notice. Okay, we move this direction. We’re going to impact the market that direction so we better start plugging up those holes.

From your perspective. Was there something that jumps out at you one of the examples I can think of is we we have it. We do a lot of advocacy development work for a lot of our clients and we happen to have a client that we’ve been doing and considerable amount of advocacy development work for and they they said hey we want to bring some of these folks together. We don’t really understand how to go about doing it. Is that something you could do for us and at the time we as an agency, we hadn’t done anything like that and you know, we looked at it like well, of course we can we’ve got all the people in house to be able to put something like this together sure we can do it, you know, we just stepped in stepped up and and put on an incredible event for them and then they all the sudden it was every event they had like this is now now comes our way and it’s not even a core capability of ours, but I think that’s really what he’s talking about. If you know if a client comes to us with a need we’ll figure out a way to to execute and deliver for them.

Yeah, you know and there there are some obvious areas where you know, it just naturally becomes a slippery slope too whole like

Things like, you know, when we get started on for example, a medical narrative it that will quickly become an investor deck, you know, or or vice versa and then which will then quickly become can you support on investor day which will quickly become can you help in our corporate Vision which will quickly become

okay, you know education plan. Yeah

to a publication plan to now it’s a disease management


and it’s you know, we kind of allow ourselves to be agile and I guess elusive enough that we can manage to morph into anything that a client needs us to be in that point in time but

to a certain extent I got to think that’s a good problem to have right? It’s not just like all right, we gave you this tiny little thing once you do it like well, you know, thank you. Bye, you know, I mean, they’re building on the initial relationship and the initial work. That’s that’s good.

Exactly, and I think if you’re always demonstrating the knowledge and the Insight, you know, when you’re working on the one project and you’re tying that into how it could conceptually be used here because of our understanding of the market, you know, that’s kind of how those projects tend to tend to flow like that. Okay, and I think that’s one of the important parts of kind of what we talked about when we talk about this hybrid model. It’s like can you be a consultant and an agency at the exact same time? And that’s one of the things we really try to do.

Like to think now granted we haven’t necessarily pulled.

Clients in this kind of qualitative fashion. We have done it in some degree to it from quantitative standpoint, but I would like to think that most of our clients their experience with us is really quite unique which is probably why we end up proliferating into all these other different areas of services and that’s because when you again I’m saying this from a client perspective frequently when you choose an agency to work with you do some sort of kickoff meeting with the client you give them some sort of objective that you want. And then like I said, then you go into the whole spec conversation, but in this particular case, I would guess that most clients are pleasantly surprised how little they have to tell us

How little that they have to explain to us the market especially when it’s in an area of a wheelhouse of you know of a specialty that we’re familiar with how little that they have to explain to us what the internal review process going to be not just by way of like how many rounds of review and mlr PRC and things like that but really more the you know, the squishy things the squishy things like Health compliance gonna react to this, how are we going to frame this with a compliance is going to be okay with this or legal is gonna be okay with this or how are we going to you know engage with this particular key opinion leader, you know who apparently is in the camp of the competitor like these kinds of things like these are active conversations that we can have pretty efficiently and I think that that General experience is probably how it becomes this Snowball Effect into new work.

Yeah. I mean, it’s not the kind of thing you can outline way in advance some of these things that you know crop up


So, all right, I’m gonna ask you one more question.

Ocean and it’s kind of grossly unfair being that the future changes every couple of minutes in the semi host pandemic era. But um, what’s next if we’re having this conversation again a year from now and I hope we will be because this has been a blast. What do you both? Hope to be telling me? What do you both expect to be telling me?

so I’m gonna say

I don’t know but

the only reason why I’m saying it’s deliberate is because

I don’t subscribe to the idea that we should over pre-identify or predestined where we need to go because by doing that we’re we are inadvertently closing down past that might be great pass for us.

Hey lock yourself in.

Yeah, and I you know and you know and as again as professional hole pluggers, we need that agility. We need that ability to be able to force correct at any point in time for the benefit of our clients. But also for the benefit of the agency, ideally I would like to tell you that we will move from virtual back over to some sort of hybrid model with with a life with a live location, but I would also tell you that as the world starts to change if it turns out that we have to go full out into the more traditional. Let’s get 30,000 square feet of space. You know, I don’t want to I don’t want to say no. No, I didn’t say that you’re good

to actually come back and erase this thing, you know,

right? So, you know, I I tend to believe that you know, we have to follow where the best opportunity is in this moment in time and then be ready to course, correct when we need to

Matt. How about you when you look into the future? What are some of the things you see or decide? You don’t want to see right? You know, right?

I think DD gave a great answer, you know, the things that I would add are we’re living in an incredible time of Technology what we’re seeing some of our clients and perspective clients working on and the advancements in in medicine and and the use of device to improve the lives of patients is really really incredible. So I think it’s an exciting time to be doing what we’re doing. But then you also have things like artificial intelligence. And what is the role of AI a year from now as we begin to understand how to harness it and and you know where we can use it to our advantage and where we can use to really understand data and demographics and things along those lines that you know, I think that presents a lot of uncertainty. I know as you know leader of an organization, I want to be in front of it and understand it as well as possible. It’s something I don’t want to you know, I want to ensure we’re not, you know run over by because I think there’s potential if you don’t

Understand it we can be run over by it. So I I think it’s a you know, it’s a time of great change which makes it an exciting time to do what we do. I I can’t answer what we’re gonna say in a year, but but I do think there’s going to be change and I do think it’s going to be mostly for the positive and I imagine that’s what makes what you guys do fun. Right definitely, right? Yeah definitely does

All right before I let you go one final question because this is the agency 100 Studio sessions podcast and also because our listeners can’t see this but Matt has a beautiful wall of guitars behind him and they’re much more deliberately staged in mine are which I gotta get on but how about this a question for both of you? What is the last song you both listen to?


I’m looking it up right now. Hang on

you’re gonna lie. I like that we can quantify this. This is great You’re gonna laugh at this but the last song actually listened to I last night was my father’s 80th birthday. And so we went out to dinner with my family and we were driving home and my wife was in a fun 80s 90s party mood as we were driving home and the last song that played and we actually sat in the garage with it on was poisoned by what was the devote right? That’s the last song we listened to cranked up in my life’s car.

You know what actually so I see it if some reason there’s a glitch in my phone. What’s that song by Toby Keith is brought to you by the courtesy of the human what you know, yes. Yeah that that’s what I was listening to yesterday

America. There we go. I I tell you obviously these conversations are wonderful for so many different reasons, but getting everybody a little tiny piece of everybody’s music taste is really kind of fun. Yeah. No doubt.

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

I love music.

Matt Deedee, this was absolutely a delight. Thanks so much for joining us here. Thank you so much Larry for the m Eminem Studio sessions podcast. This is Larry. Dobrow many thanks for listening and be well.