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Healthcare communications specialist 90Ten celebrated its coming of age in 2019 with a fifth consecutive year of more than 25% growth, to fee income of more than £8m. The team of 72 at the London agency includes specialists in public relations, medical education and advocacy, alongside neuroscientists, psychologists and ex-ad agency brand planners, a futurist who specialises in disruptive technologies and an advisory board that ensures the agency is on top of the latest in behavioural science.
A significant proportion of 90Ten’s work is for the regional or global HQs for pharma companies based in Europe, including Switzerland, France and the UK: overall, the healthcare communications specialist works for more than half of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical firms. It has particular strengths in purpose-driven communications, influencer marketing and patient advocacy, as well as behavioural science, where it strengthened its offer with a change management communications programme, a new tool to identify the right social influencers to help change health beliefs and behaviours, and a cognitive bias framework to identify subconscious behaviours that are holding back change.
As is the case for all healthcare agencies, finding and retaining talent is a huge challenge; 90Ten tackled this with a number of new initiatives in 2019, including mental health and wellbring programmes and a new approach to flexible working. Thought leadership over the year included the ‘Cannes or Canned?’ report to boost the creative output of the pharma comms sector, which is now being used industry-wide to foster bigger, bolder healthcare campaigns. The agency was such an attractive proposition that it was bought by global medical communications and technology company Envision Pharma Group in April this year. The 90Ten brand remains intact, however, as does the existing management team, including co-founders Paul Tanner, the agency’s chairman, and CEO Carole North, as well as MDs Peter Impey and Alison Doughty. — MPS
Evoke Kyne (Huntsworth)
Kyne was founded 11 years ago by David Kyne in Dublin on the belief that communication is a powerful health intervention that can save lives. The agency is respected for its expertise in bringing together biotech and pharmaceutical companies, non-profits and foundations to address some of the world’s most pressing public health challenges, from oncology to malaria. Kyne’s work and client roster is so impressive, it was only a matter of time before the agency was snapped up, and in May 2019 it was bought by Huntsworth’s Evoke group of healthcare specialist agencies.
Kyne and Evoke PR & Influence joined forces to create Evoke Kyne, with offices in Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles and London, with key consultants also based in Canada, France, Mozambique, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The combined firm now has 107 employees and fee income of over $25 million, making it one of the world’s largest healthcare agencies. Both legacy agencies grew by 25% in 2019, including organic growth of 51% and 15 new clients across sectors and geographies, while working hard to integrate the teams into one new culture.
Much of Kyne’s client list and work is confidential, but good examples of its work include the Goodbye Malaria campaign, designing evidence-based behaviour change communication strategies to empower communities and inspire sustained malaria prevention in Mozambique and building Insmed’s corporate reputation in the rare disease community. The agency also works with many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies on work covering flu vaccinations, mental health, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
The agency has a wide range of initiatives to support its employees, including a diversity and inclusion programme, professional development, exchange and volunteering opportunities, mentorship, and wellbeing programmes. — MPS
GCI Health (WPP)
GCI Health opened its first international office in London in 2013, and has rapidly established itself as one of the leading healthcare specialists in the UK. The rapid growth accelerated in 2019, with organic growth of 33%--meaning that the firm has more than quadrupled in size over the past five years. The growth was helped by the fact that retained all of its existing clients, a list that includes leading pharmaceutical companies Astellas, Bayer, Biogen, Gilead, Merck KGaA, Qiagen, and Vertex, while bringing in new business from AstraZeneca (global and UK assignments), Jazz Pharmaceuticals, and Seattle Genetics.
In EMEA as a whole, however, the growth was an even more impressive 83%, thanks to the acquisition of Hering Schuppener Healthcare, a specialized unit of the leading German corporate and financial communications specialist. That move added offices in Hamburg and Düsseldorf, an additional 30 healthcare specialists to the GCI team including Horst Müther, co-owner and managing director of Hering Schuppener, who continues to manage the operation. The German operations focus on four areas: strategic communication consulting; pharmaceuticals and medical devices, including market access communications; consumer wellness; and corporate communication for healthcare companies and other organizations.
One thing that helps GCI stand out is its approach to its people, with a flexible approach to work, a highly customized approach to professional development, and a suite of offerings designed to enhance mental health. That has helped the firm attract top talent: managing director Kath Kerry; deputy MD Kim Walker; senior director and head of client services Hannah Morris; and Zoe Fleming, who leads the HR function. Highlights of the creative work including supporting access discussions across the globe for Vertex; executing an innovative social media campaign to transcend linguistic barriers and unite the EU MS community for Biogen; and celebrating the 10th anniversary of the formation of ViiV Healthcare, a specialist in HIV therapies created by GSK and Pfizer.—PH
Virgo Health (UK/Golin)
As in many of the networks, healthcare was one of the strongest growth areas – and offers – for Golin, whose specialist healthcare agency Virgo Health grew by more than 13% the year after moving into Golin’s offices. As well as enabling the teams to share creative services, including digital and design, operations were integrated to the extent that Virgo Health’s MD, Ondine Whittington, also became the group MD of Golin London in March this year.
Whittington leads a 70-strong diverse Virgo Health team in London and New York (17% BME, 90% female leadership). In 2019, the agency transformed its London base into a global healthcare specialist hub and grew its global client roster by turning down opportunities to pitch: Virgo Health pursued just 34% of opportunities and won 86% of them, including a significant win for a multinational pharma company that led to it opening Virgo Chicago. For the first time, Virgo invited sister IPG agency McCann Health to partner on one of the biggest pitches in Europe, together winning more than £1 million in fees. This all contributed to growth from new and existing clients, with 57% organic growth across the team’s top five clients.
In addition, in 2019 Virgo Health developed a specialism in internal/change management communications that drove six-figure new revenue, and evolved The Pharmacy, its healthcare creative studio, into a specialist global hub, trebling revenue in two years. Internally, to refocus on its Being Human culture and positioning after moving into Golin’s offices, the agency created “cultural ambassadors” who built a new rewards and recognition programme that recognises high performance while still retaining a caring culture; helped determine boundaries around flexible working: and contributed to how the office should act and feel in the new environment.
The company is known for its bold, creative work, which last year included creating “Emma”, the work colleague of the future, to drive awareness of how poor workplaces can have a major impact on health. The Fellowes Future Work Colleague Report was brought to life with a full-sized model that showed how the human body could morph in 20 years if current office practices continue. Emma’s warning reached 66 countries, with one million organic video views and 155% web traffic uplift. The team also tackled how difficult it can be to know how to talk to people with cancer, by using a stand-up comedian in a campaign for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. — MPS
Not so long ago, it would have been unusual to find WE Communications on the healthcare agency shortlist. But the agency founded as a B2B tech specialist in 1983 by Melissa Waggener Zorkin can now claim that its strength in healthcare and consumer work matches up to its technology prowess.
Much of WE’s work in the healthcare sector is at the intersection of healthcare and technology, with clients in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, digital health, and devices and diagnostics. The agency’s offer spans brand communications, health advocacy and scientific and regulatory communications. EMEA healthcare revenue (across the UK, Germany and South Africa) increased by 10% in 2019, and in the UK, this shot up to 25%, with new business wins including Sinclair, Celgene (now BMS), Abbott Diabetes Care, LEO Pharma, and Bayer, joining Elsevier, GN Hearing and others. Across the region, 24% of WE’s revenue now comes from healthcare; it’s 20% in the UK, rising to 46% in Germany.
Key hires in the UK included associate director Elizabeth Shearing Green and digital and content strategy director Cecilia Dominici. In Germany, key hires includes head of health Manuela Fastner and Alexander Dopsil, scientific lead and creative director. WE also opened a Frankfurt office in summer 2019 focused on growing the health sector in a stronghold for health agencies and pharmaceutical companies in Germany.
Such is its growth in this arena, the agency’s healthcare leads are becoming some of the most senior in the global business, including UK deputy general manager and head of health Catherine Devaney, who is working with UK general manager Ruth Allchurch (who has turned the wider agency round in London since arriving in mid-2018 to achieve overall growth of 14% in 2019) to build a fast-growing, integrated health offering in London. Sarah Gooding, head of health in South Africa, has also recently been promoted to WE’s first MD role in the country. The agency also produced robust healthcare thought leadership, including building out its Brand in Motion report to include a dedicated healthcare white paper, ‘The New Healthcare Brand Imperative: Be Different in the Face of Indifference’. — MPS
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