As an agency that just reached 30 years in business, imre is an independent agency relentless in its pursuit to positively defy the conventions of life sciences marketing. 

But it’s so much more than marketing rhetoric, it’s a cultural ethos that’s allowed the agency to deliver disruptive industry firsts and contend with mainstay holding company agencies. All of which has resulted in winning (!) bigger briefs for both launch and in-line brands as DTC and HCP AOR, resulting in significant net-new business and accelerated organic growth.

Note: MM+M uses speech-recognition software to generate transcripts, which may contain errors. Please use the transcript as a tool but check the corresponding audio before quoting this content.

Mark I’ll give you two here.

Mmm agency 100 Studio sessions emrae Health. Okay, we’re



this is Marcus. I’m editor at large for mmm and I’m super excited for you to plug into this episode of a 100 Studio sessions a new podcast series, which gives members of the mmm agency 100 list and opportunity to Riff on what sets them apart.

In this episode we’re focusing on the agency Emory health. I’m delighted to be joined by two Emory execs Anna kotis president and Brian Simmons Chief growth officer.

Annan Brian welcome to MMM Studio sessions

hap you as well.

Thank you excited to be here. Happy. Happy Feel Good Friday.

Thanks so much in this conversation. We’ll dive under the hood of this 30 year old Indy agency here more about it’s cultural ethos and how it holds its own relative to some of the Mainstay Network owning agencies specifically by winning bigger ads and bigger briefs from a farmer Brands. So without further Ado, let’s just get into it here as we said, this is the agency 30 year anniversary Milestone. So taking a quick look back and look forward. I wanted to ask you Brian as you’ve been there for about six years. What stands at is the most proud moments that’s kind of cementing your legacy there from your perspective.

Yeah, you know, thank you Mark. It’s it’s super exciting. I think when you think about the last six years kind of the trajectory every Health, it’s sort of startup is six people within the agency and I think really looking

sort of the equities that the agency held in the consumer marketing space and how you know a lot of people with with knowledge of

Healthcare and pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences Brands could sort of you know, bring an outside perspective to farm us. So I think a lot of

What’s what’s been really fun? And sort of a fun ride to be a part of is kind of figuring out how some of these sort of outside in perspectives and staying close to culture but then bringing in experts and understand therapeutic categories and how to work within, you know, large and small life sciences and Pharma Brands It’s been a

It’s been a real treat just to see how we cannot, you know, sort of disrupt the conventions of Life Sciences marketing

speaking of disruption. And you joined about a year and a half ago. Give us your take on that.

Well it thanks Mark. I think the the Inside Out is the perspective that I would brought to the table, right? So having worked on client side accounts and also being sort of at the epicenter of you know, everything that was happening more from the transition moment of helping Brands figure out their go to market their brand positioning. So that has been a huge part of what has evolved our ability to compete for some of these bigger at bat assignments is really understanding that Insight out perspective and marrying that with the outside and perspective that came from exactly what Brian alluded too early or in terms of how do we find inspiration from outside of Health Care into Healthcare and that continued trajectory of combining the two is the magic that’s the magic that many

Clients have asked us to bring to the conversation for them in helping them make sure that they are able to check the box on the basics of what’s going to make them successful in the marketplace. But then also pushing them to think differently about how did they think about that engagement opportunity How do they

Take risks about showing up in channels that maybe they haven’t shown up in before to really really solidify a modern experience for customers that helps us stand out as an agency partner and also helps them stand out as marketeers in the healthcare space and doing something different.

Sure. Can you elaborate just for a sec? And I like what what you mean by that outside in perspective like we’re from where do you draw that outside Healthcare perspective,

but we have the pleasure of partnering with so many clients in the consumer space whether it’s clients, like Infinity automotive and John Deere and steel and you know, even in the what I’ve called The Wellness space with Balch and loam so those client opportunities really help push us to be at the epicenter of what it means to create meaningful engagement. Whether that’s engagement in in experience that we’re putting together right or engagement as it relates to different ways of accessing influencer marketing or other aspects of what you know, really have been key ways of personifying and building those experiences in the consumer broadside and then bring that into the healthcare space where at the end of the day, we’re all people we

Want to be you know engaged and and talk to in a tonality in a format that continues to tap into what we are experiencing outside our Healthcare conversations. And that really really has been a huge part of our success story in helping our Healthcare clients understand how do they build those differentiated experiences from the outside in and then from the inside out? How do you stay compliant to bring those different types of experiences knowing how to get things approved within the constraints of what is the reality of of appropriate compliant communication for what are you know Health Care clients expect this to uphold and help them stay within the lanes of what is okay to do but also push the concurrently

sure and you’ve obviously got years of experience on both the client side and Pharma and the agency side and just to

Clarify MRE as we said three decades in the business, but the health practice is coming up on a decade in business right talk about the upper trajectory for that vertical and you know more about what’s driving the growth there and how you seek to sustain that momentum.

Yeah, I think

markets, it’s interesting because

I like saying but now I’ve been here collectively 10 years. I was here for a bit boomeranged back and I think you know, just even over the last 12 to 18 months what we’re seeing more is

Um, you know social and digital was sort of a differentiated place as Anna was sharing that I think.

The show what we can do from an innovation perspective, but I think now, you know, a lot of Brands need to be very digitally LED or digitally native in terms of how they go to market. And so we’re getting invited into full DTC hcp aor briefs and I would say what we’re also seeing in that mix is

a big what I call like a return to earned. I think there’s a lot of you know advertising Vehicles out there, but I think earned marketing and the ways that you can tell stories and craft ideas and really sort of get into you know, different marketing vehicles that earn attention is where we’re getting a lot of gravity. So I think sort of the power of earned the power of creativity and the power of digital are really sort of sitting at the Forefront of these clients that I believe have a high threshold rate Innovation and you know our finding new ways to you know, stand out whether it’s to Physicians patients or caregivers across the care continue.

I’ve heard about earn media Brian. What do you mean by earned in the context of marketing?

Yeah. So I mean, I think like historically it probably

Most analogous to PR but I think sometimes there can be a perception that you know PR is just very heavily media relations. And I think what we’re looking at is, you know, where the places and spaces that people are showing up and that could be on tiktok that could be on

out of home, you know Vehicles. We know Physicians spend a lot of time, you know and continuing that and congresses and things like that. So I think we’re trying to find those places where you know, it’s not necessarily media that’s driving the story but instead the insight and the ideas that are, you know crafting.

The Narrative and then we’re partnering with you know, our paid media team our analytics team to try to figure out you know, what’s the best way to amplify those ideas and sort of make sure every dollar can stretch further

sure and you want to build on that.

Yeah, I mean, it’s not of course. There’s a modern ecosystem that we’re talking about. Whether it’s how you earn attention. How do you measure and put right content in front of the Right audience at the right time and capturing that that right momentum is a huge part of what our clients are expecting of us and we continue to show up in ways that surprises them in terms of what’s possible. And also how to make them even smarter in a fit for purpose way depending on where they are, you know, standing up their digital ecosystem and text that that’s a huge part of what we’re doing every single day. I think the other part of it really is coming to the table of people that understand therapeutic area expertise and what is happening contextually in the minds of you know, again, we have reconstructed how we organize our agency on the healthcare side through this therapeutic area model because we believe in the very foundational basic of the person who knows the customer wins and marketing so at the end of the day

you have the Confluence of both customer insight and understanding of the larger dynamics that is facing that therapeutic areas key Target healthcare provider the expanded network of care what that you know patient perspective is going to be and you combine that with the analytics and the

just big picture thinking of what’s possible to earn that attention. This is where we see our clients winning in taking some risks and some new ways of going to Market but also balancing that with really understanding what’s going to be an authentic engagement opportunity because you really understand both sides of that equation from the top down. What is the customers dealing with how do you understand the tensions? How do you understand the interactivity of key stakeholders in terms of their importance along that trajectory of of their day right at what point are the interacting with their nurse at what point is that nurse interacting with the patient at what point do we intervene with programmatic ideas that can transcend those moments and then also thinking how do you earn their attention? How do you combine that with a experience that really starts to?

Help differentiate what you know, we think you know traditional Farm was not able to do and now we’re able to do it more and more in a very organic and wonderful way which has earned a lot of attention and helps our clients really at the end of the day helps our clients feel like they’re making a difference for what they’re signing up to do in healthcare because ultimately that’s why you’re in this game in my from my perspective. You could be a marketer in any category your marketer and healthcare because you want to make a difference and and that that comes through loud and clear as we see the results we get to see in some of the programs.

Sure, and that helps you sort of build out your relationships with your clients too talk about it. If you would the stable of long-term clients that you have there at memory and a little bit more perhaps about how you you know, keep keep those relationships vibrant.

Yeah. Well, you know, we’ve got clients that have been with us for 15 years and longer which is incredible. I’ve been coming from other agencies ecosystems. Like wow 15 years. That’s a long time to keep a relationship going. So we’re really proud of that and the other interesting data point if I can go there is you know, they bring us along for their Journey. So even when marketers leave Brands they tend to be our clients for a long time. So they they become Emory fans and they bring us along to their next and so we have longstanding relationships. I think the metric is something like nine years is the average length of Engagement with any clients stakeholder that we’re super proud of and that is based on a foundation of doing a couple things.

Authentically authentically showing up for them as a partner that is willing to just stop saying no and start figuring out. How can we and being open to that conversation each and every single day because that also helps us compete, right? We hear a lot about our clients that our teams are just easy to work with we Embrace this, you know, mindset of put yourself in your client’s shoes and approach the conversation with empathy and that unlocks. Okay here is how we can support you in ways that perhaps they don’t get from other agency partners. I also think a huge part of our differentiation is how we support our people we take good care of our people. We understand that, you know, no one’s going to show up at their best if they are feeling burned out if they’re not working in environment where they feel supported. So a huge part of our ethos is bringing your authentic self to work.

Ensure that our talent feel supported through, you know, Mind and Body Benefits and ways of creating time away from work. So again that client is experiencing a partner on the other side that is energized that is empowered and is driven to really just build and find get beyond the barrier of oh, no, we always do it this way. This is our way of working to okay. I understand your problem. Let’s work together to figure out how can we how might we approach a really tight timeline or approach a really difficult mlr conversation which

You know, I think at the end of day speaks volumes to how they feel good about bringing this along and back to where we started the conversation bring us along for their next assignment right make some successful makes us successful and really builds that that Circle of trust.

Yeah, absolutely taking care of your people definitely has benefits on the client side Brian you want to build on that?

Yeah. No, I think I think I think it definitely it’s people-based business, right? It’s all about relationships and I think from a from a growth perspective once they all so and Anna and I talk about this a lot is, you know, we shouldn’t have to wait until

RFP or a pitch or some kind of vehicle of that kind is when we’re coming up with new ideas. I think like we always we kind of always tell ourselves like where can we be proactive and you know, what are the right types of opportunities to sort of like open the client’s eyes to either different services that we offer or bring in bring in different team members that can just sort of layer in sometimes that outside in perspective somebody who might not touch the brand or people that have been very close to the category for a while, but

they just weren’t working on that brand prescriptively. So I think our approach to and you know, the spirit of those long-term relationships is how can we continue to show up in the way that we would in a new business pitch? But well before one of those Vehicles comes about

sure let’s switch gears for a second talk about the agency landscape seems to be going through a period of flux, especially coming out of covid. I think a lot of agencies are trying to redefine, you know, how you partner and sort of putting a new stamp on their creative. We’ve seen also the trend toward Brands going through consolidation sometimes at a portfolio level. What are you saying? And how does that inform where you’re investing in the business?

Yeah, I’ll jump in here. I think at the end of the day. We’re always investing in our clients. Whatever the factors are the macro factors around consolidation those of us who’ve been doing this a long time. Now that it’s cyclical they’re going to go through consolidation the consolidation ultimately leads to you know, some dissatisfaction because they don’t have enough diversity of thought and they get back into a model that allows, you know, a bigger list of players to enter back into the building. So for us the the tension is not the consolidation pressures. That’s like I said, that’s something that this industry goes through we’ve seen it. I’ve seen it I can’t even tell you how many times across so many clients that I’ve lost count.

It goes back to exactly what Brian said We are continuing to make sure that our emphasis is how do we show up and show that we’re invested in our relationship with our with our clients? How do we show up and you know host an innovation workshop for them host a session for them to you know, join us internally when we’re having one of our you know, big ideation Big Ideas sessions. So they feel a little bit inspired finding ways of sharing with them thought leadership on an active basis that we think is going to be important to have them think about what’s happening more broadly because you know having been a Brand Market here the benefit of that is that your day in and day out is your brand you live you breathe you wake up you go to an mlr conversation you come out of the mlr conversation, you’re going to senior leadership conversation. It’s all about the brand. So no one is living those Brands more fully than the client marketers on the flip of that. What happens is, you know, you become very myopic.

So the for us the agency partnership is built on how do we continue to bring an influx their day with a moment of delight a moment of hey, this is a thought leadership piece. We thought we’d find relevant having that person get on the phone. Hey, can I connect you with the person who wrote this give me 30 minutes. Let’s talk about it. And that’s refreshing. Right? So it’s the little moments Beyond The Innovation workshops that we talked about but also the places where you start to know your clients and get different folks in front of them and really help them feel like there was a moment of outside in perspective that brighten their day and also sort of broke up maybe a different point of view on what’s possible for them and hopefully inspires them to keep the conversation going at the end of the day. It’s about value creation and that’s how we do it.

No matter what the pressures Consolidated or not.

Right. Sure. What do you see as the next big thing in healthcare marketing Brian what it took a step with that one?

Oh, geez. There’s a lot of there’s a lot of next big things.

Well, I think I’ll answer that two ways. I think.

Even outside of healthcare marketing. Let’s just raise it up to marketing. I think.

we’re seeing a lot of

continue investment at least from our agency in a work from anywhere culture. And so I think you’re going to get a lot more opportunity to tap into Talent across the marketing ecosystem from a lot of different markets, which also contributes to that diversity of thought that Anna was talking about but I would also say too I think you know, I go back to that perspective we have from our consumer business because it’s sort of sometimes feels like the consumer side of our business almost 10 years ahead of Pharma. And so there’s a lot of different Trends and insights and things that we can learn from that and I think like as Anna shared in the beginning there’s a huge investment right now and happening with like Creator culture and how creators are coming in and being part of Brands and we’re starting to see I would say the early days of that with health influencers. So you’re getting more physician influencers and you know, there’s been a couple campaigns and things we’ve had the privilege to work on. There’s a huge sort of influx around community and how do you get into some of these, you know Community groups to understand and get closer to the

Couple years ago, you know designed thinking was a good way to start doing that and start learning about the patients. But how do you really contribute to being a part of that community? And you know, I think in rare disease is an area that we’re seeing a ton more investment there and so for us, I think it’s just, you know, staying close to what are the the trends happening across marketing and that broader consumer landscape and how can we help that sort of bring that perspective to help pull Pharma forward?

Yeah tapping into that Collective of influencers certainly on the HTTP and the patient side helps. You keep your work authentic from you know, even from just a market research perspective. But you know, it’s even more interesting when you know, you you seek to create a movement, you know amongst influencers or led by influencers and you want to kind of build on that what you think is this coming around the corner in healthcare marketing.

Yeah. I mean again, I don’t think this is anything

That’s come around the corner. It’s just a basic tenet of really back to understanding your customer and each of our especially for the healthcare providers. We’re getting more and more real in terms of how we engage them. The more you are able to get to a better communication and dialogue between what they can then carry through to their patient experience. So a huge part of you know, what I think is going to continue to push us forward in healthcare is really just understanding that Health Care Providers are people too they want to be and educated but they also want to be entertained they are just as influence by seeing their peers on the social channels as potentially their patients are as well and recognizing that those are important vehicles for us to embrace in a appropriate compliant way, of course, but very much in the spirit of understanding that if you’re going to have an authentic conversation as a marketer as a brand

That fundamentally has to come in showing up in the places that they are and speaking to them in a way that doesn’t continue to sort of perpetuate this like data-centric. Jargon that we sometimes get caught up in with Brands. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a conversation even as a marketer like our data is great. Look at our data we blah blah who cares right that the physician doesn’t care about your 52% efficacy advantage to blah they say they care in a market research setting but when it comes to actually engagement that is not what’s going to draw them in that is not what’s going to create memorability and frankly. I don’t think that’s where we are as an industry anymore and time to move past some of that the other thing

more of it to more of an emotional connection one of you know, being authentic and finding folks that

can deliver the right messages back to that framework of right content right time, right like not every stakeholder is going to hear the message this

Been at the same message sometimes about who’s delivering the message. Are they ready to receive the message? How do you think about that mix in a very authentic way and recognizing that you know, it’s not always going to be your sales rep that’s going to have to do that. There might be other vehicles and ways to really break through and have a fundamentally constructive conversation and educational conversation a compliant conversation looking in a different channels.

Which is why I think the other big thing is, you know, who knows what the future sales model is going to look like who knows what the right mix between non-personal personal is going to be in in 10 years. If you know you look at the data today, you’re like, hey looks like the time of the rep is gone. But then you also see in certain disease states that that’s not the case. So I don’t know that I can predict the future but I’ll certainly say that for us back to you know, building an authentic engagement with a customer and with a healthcare provider thinking of them for more that human Centric lens. It’s no surprise that you know, they want to be spoken to not always through a rep coming into their office through a video call through other channels of getting the information they need and that I think will be a continued Trend within sort of the continuation of modernizing our marketing mix and engagement strategy within the healthcare space

great. Thanks for looking into the crystal ball a little bit.

One last question for you both for let you go this being the a100 studio sessions. I have to ask you. What is the last song each of you? Listen to Brian? I’m always start with you.

Oh man. I was I was just jamming out as I was getting ready for this mine was a Superstition by Stevie Wonder.

Oh, that’s

something about the Baseline and that song Just I love it. Not that I was superstitious at all about how this was good. But that’s an all-time favorite.

Yeah, very good sign to jam out on Anna.

Well, I’m in a house full of teenagers. So the last thing that was all right. Our house was a little bit of Taylor Swift.

Okay, they’re gonna say the Frozen soundtrack

now so here Taylor concert next week. And so we have tailors midnight album on Loop, I think have stuff in our house.

Very nice. Very nice. Great great to see the kids kind of growing more sophisticated in their musical taste.

Yeah, exactly.

All right, all Taylor all the time.



that helped us.

Yeah, we’re we’re paying attention to her following her her World Tour going on right now,

I mean Mark and we throw it back at you. What was your


oh man. I am in a 90s hip hop vein. I’ve recently Tribe Called Quest. I really really like their stuff.

Yeah, that’s awesome.

They really had a really big influence. So

Mark you surprised me with that answer well done

so that and the you know, the soundtrack to Fiddler. But yeah, it was too good

on the track.

I thought you’re gonna say a house of pain next but okay.

That’s one. Alright, this has been terrific. I really enjoyed this to that end, you know as you both progress and in your roles and continue to live and breathe, you know, these farmer Brands. Hope we can have another conversation down the road.

It’d be our pleasure. Thank you for the time.

Absolutely. Oh everybody out there. We hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation as much as we have come back for another one. This has been marcuskowitz along with Anacortes and Brian Simmons for mmm Studio sessions. Take care everybody.