Tribal Worldwide, which bills itself as the “Total Experience agency,” is doubling down on health. The Omnicom-owned company has announced plans to launch Tribal Health, a pharma-first standalone unit, in January. 

The new division will be led by Tribal managing partner Jason Galla-Barth, whose healthcare agency resume includes stints at Publicis Life Brands, VMLY&R and Ogilvy Health. Current Tribal clients that will be serviced by the health arm include Gilead, GlaxoSmithKline and Medela.

Galla-Barth says the decision to spin off Tribal’s health work was prompted by client demand for approaches that better reflect the new COVID reality.

“What they were asking for is how they could utilize data in order to drive marketing,” he explained. “When pharma came knocking, Tribal said we have done this data-driven stuff for other clients and we will see if we can use this for pharma and do the same thing.”

Galla-Barth acknowledged that pharma is subject to tighter regulation than nearly every other sector, but believes the industry can benefit from Tribal’s experience-first mindset. “Obviously pharma is much more regulated – and, with that in mind, a specific Tribal practice was set up. But the data science and the UI – all of that is coming from the larger agency,” he added.

Arriving amid COVID-19 (and the shift away from traditional marketing it has accelerated), the proposition that Tribal Health is offering may sound familiar. Clearly it’s not the only agency promising to think outside the box and offer guidance during an era of unparalleled disruption.

When asked about this, Galla-Barth pointed to the agency’s decades of experience across different verticals.

“We are not completely unique. I don’t think that exists anymore,” he said. “But the old-school agencies like McCann and Ogilvy—the big established players—don’t have the data science skill set that Tribal has. They don’t have the user interface design and user experience design skill sets that Tribal has. They have these big creative departments that can churn out big campaigns and business-as-usual deliverables, but what pharma is looking for is something different: niche, bespoke, data-driven, trigger marketing.”

Of Tribal’s 22 offices, three are located in North American cities: New York, Vancouver and Toronto. The agency plans to call on its Omnicom network siblings for local support on an as-needed basis.