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Kyne was founded 12 years ago by David Kyne on the belief that communication is a powerful health intervention that can save lives: a clear business and social purpose that put the agency in prime position as coronavirus hit. The agency was snapped up by Huntsworth’s Evoke group of healthcare specialist agencies in 2019 to create Evoke Kyne. The agency brings together biotech and pharmaceutical companies, non-profits, foundations and other stakeholders to address some of the world’s most pressing public health challenges. This year, much of its work has been focused on Covid vaccines and treatments. Much of Kyne’s client list and work is confidential, but it works with many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies on work covering mental health, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and multiple sclerosis, cancer, flu and malaria.
Headquartered in Dublin, the global team has bases in Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles and London, with key consultants also based in Canada, France, Portugal and Uganda.
The agency’s strength in public-private sector partnerships, pharma, public health and social impact meant that the pandemic hit Evoke Kyne’s sweet spot. In its first consolidated year bringing together Kyne and Evoke, Evoke Kyne grew by 25% in 2020. The firm now has 139 employees and fee income of just shy of $31 million, making it one of the world’s largest healthcare agencies. As well as more than 15 new client wins, there was organic growth across the board, and increased social media, digital, analytics and creative work.
Two weeks before Covid hit, Evoke Kyne carried out a whole-company on-site in Philadephia to set strategy and bond, and this set it up well to adjust to the pandemic as a combined, but remote, team. The agency put its people first, putting a broad suite of mental health and wellness initiatives in place, ensuring everyone was set up to work well at home, extra support for working parents and reassurance that no-one would lose their jobs. In its employee survey, 98% said they’d got the support they needed. The agency also ramped up its focus on DE&I globally, including a working group, unconscious bias training, appointing a head of DE&I, and the first BAME internship in Europe, for which it had 400 applicants.
Evoke Kyne was one of the founding partners of the Pandemic Action Network in March last year, which now has 65 global partners across public health, technology – including Facebook and Google – pharma and NGOs. The initiative, which brings together policy, advocacy and communications, grew out of Evoke Kyne’s work on Ebola and pandemic preparedness in 2014, and is focused not only on Covid response but also what needs to be put in place to prevent the next pandemic, from developing #WorldMaskWeek – which reached 3.5 billion people in one week – to advocacy on global funding for PPE and more equal distribution of vaccines.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
BCW’s healthcare team in Europe has long been one of the strongest areas of the whole business, and again proved to be one of the stand-out performers within the network in 2020 as it continued to deliver work that mattered more than ever, for clients who range across the entire healthcare spectrum, including many of the world’s leading pharma companies. Surprisingly agile and innovative for a super-sized agency, the healthcare division introduced several new offers during the year: a high-value business transformation consultancy working with the C-suites of healthcare companies on corporate purpose, sustainability and digital transformation; a virtual meetings and experiences offer delivering events from intimate advisory boards to 600-person meeting; and BCW:Life, a specialised consumer health proposition.
BCW has around 40 healthcare specialists across its network of 22 wholly-owned offices in 12 European countries.
Business results for the year exceeded all expectations: BCW’s healthcare division, led by group managing director of healthcare Catherine Keddie in London, grew 19%, which was 12% above target; 27% of this growth was down to its new offers and services. The division retained 90% of its team and promoted 40%, as well as onboarding eight new people. BCW’s healthcare pitch win rate was 76% over the year: it added four new clients and 15 new projects to its portfolio, which includes Pfizer, Sanofi and Boehringer Ingelheim.
BCW’s focus was firmly on its people and maintaining the culture it so thoughtfully built after its 2017 merger, and the leadership brought in various measures to support resilience, courage, wellbeing, self-care and flexibility. Its BCW MovE flexible working policy was already in place, but evolved to full flexibility. Virtual meeting times were limited to 45 minutes and the leadership team held bi-monthly one-to-ones with everyone, listening to their experiences and needs. The agency sent out wellness packages to encourage time out and held quizzes, book clubs and virtual breakfasts. BCW also embedded tools supporting a growth mindset and trained everyone in “Ask Forward”, a new framework for giving and receiving feedback. As part of its commitment to diversity, the agency created an extensive resource library, rolled out training on cultural differences, power and privilege, allyship and unconscious bias, held open forums to listen and learn, and championed three people through BME PR Pro’s mentoring programme.
it also created a three-day virtual event bringing together more than 600 colleagues from around the world. The healthcare team also created a podcast series on hepatitis for Gilead, rebranded a digital health company, and built a global content studio for a disease awareness campaign that delivered more than over 2,500 creative assets.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
Having cemented its position as a market leader among independent healthcare specialists in the US, 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. Last year, it expanded its footprint through the acquisition of Hering Schuppener Healthcare, a unit of the leading German corporate and financial communications specialist.
From its headquarters in London, GCI’s EMEA operations have expanded, adding offices in Hamburg and Düsseldorf through the Hering Schuppener acquisition, and has also added an office in Brussels to handle EU public affairs needs.
The healthcare sector, understandably, kept itself busy in 2020 and GCI Health benefited from its focus in that space, seeing revenues increase 18%--a sixth consecutive year of double-digit growth. New business came from Medicago, Sanofi, GSK and Novo Nordisk, while the firm retained all of its existing clients—a list that includes Astellas, Bayer, Biogen, Kite and Vertex (as well as several big names that the agency treats as confidential).
Kath Kerry, president of Europe and the Middle East, leads a strong and stable management team including managing directors Kim Walker and Hannah Morris, chief of staff Clare Yianni, and head of talent Zoe Fleming, who was kept busy in 2020 as the firm doubled down on its employee wellness initiatives, its flexible work environment, and its commitment to equity and diversity, strengthening the “one team” approach across the region. The firm also made some important investment hires, adding talent in Brussels (senior director Neha Dave), and digital and social (senior strategist Jock McEwan).
GCI Health was well positioned to take advantage of some of the changing demands of healthcare clients in the pandemic environment, working with Vertex, for example, on employee engagement. It also helped AstraZeneca ensure that cancer care remained on the agenda despite the focus on Covid, with the “New Normal, Same Cancer” campaign—which earned the firm a SABRE nomination.
— Paul Holmes
The gap between Golin’s healthcare team and specialist sister agency Virgo Health has become tissue-thin over the past year since Virgo’s managing director, Ondine Whittington, also became the group MD of Golin London in March 2020, just two weeks before lockdown. To the extent that Whittington has accelerated integration and the removal of silos, we’re viewing the two agency brands as one entity in the healthcare category. Together, the teams have a track record of solving big health challenges through strategic communications campaigns for pharmaceutical, consumer healthcare and not-for-profit clients, including patient engagement, scientific communications, digital health, market access, brand communications, corporate communications, employee engagement and medical education.
Virgo Health and Golin are based in London, while Golin has 11 other offices across EMEA: Brussels, Bucharest, Dubai, Hamburg, Istanbul, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Paris, Riga, Stockholm.
The twin powerhouse of Golin’s creative nous and Virgo’s regulatory expertise – and a strategy of throwing egos aside in the crisis to deepen collaboration and integration, including with another sister agency, Brooklyn Brothers – helped the IPG agencies weather the 2020 storm together. Golin’s risk and reputation team, for instance, worked across healthcare to help those clients who were thrust into the spotlight by the pandemic. Golin’s consumer healthcare revenue increased by 58% over the year, while pharma grew by 29%, making healthcare one of the shining lights (and saving graces) for an agency which saw flat growth globally and a 10% decline overall in London. Virgo Health, which had a 73% new business win rate over the year, grew by 5% with double digit margins; 48% of its growth was organic. Golin now has around 70 people and a further 60 are employees of Virgo Health.
As with many networked agencies, the overnight switch to virtual working was not seamless for Golin and Virgo Health, but putting people first and listening – and adapting to the scope of leadership roles changing overnight – helped the teams pull through and prove their resilience. New initiatives includes wellbeing check in sessions led by mental health first aiders, shutting early on Fridays, parent support – Whittington herself is a full-time mum running two agencies remotely – and headspace days, enabling people to just take a day off to step back. The agencies also set up a DE&I council to accelerate the work it was already doing, to develop strategy for next three years around an inclusive workforce, ensuring client work was diverse, industry leadership, training, policies and data. Golin also created a forum called Safe Space where employees from marginalised communities could speak confidentially about any issues.
Virgo Health supported early scientific communications around Covid vaccine rollout, while at Golin, SABRE-nominated work included the Early Days Club campaign for baby wipes WaterWipes along with Brooklyn Brothers, to help new and expecting parents during lockdown. The virtual platform, addressed the challenges of bringing a baby into the world during social distancing, from Zoom conversations healthcare professionals and influencers, to emotional support from a network of peers. Virgo Health was also nominated for its work with new client Estée Lauder’s breast cancer campaign, Time to Unite.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
This year, healthcare specialist W2O has rebranded as Real Chemistry to reflect its expanded capabilities as a “global health innovation company” after rapid growth and a string of acquisitions. As well as the healthcare marketing and communications firm Jim Weiss founded 20 years ago, the new firm includes the 12 businesses he has acquired in recent years, with the goal of making the agency a leader in data and analytics. Essentially, the combined business is now a home for health experts to collaborate and innovate through data, proprietary technology and creativity. The agency offers integrated communications, data and analytics, medical education, marketing, tech development, clinical trial development, advertising, social and creative. The agency plans to add other services including policy and advocacy, performance marketing and market access.
The agency has had an office in London since 2010, and opened in Zurich in 2017. It has also just opened an office in Brussels.
It was a record-breaking year for the agency, which grew EMEA revenue by 32% to £20.8 million in 2020 – up from £9.6 million in 2018. Headcount in Europe also grew from 63 in 2018 to 159. This makes Real Chemistry one of the fastest growing agencies in Europe over the past three years and it shows no sign of stopping: as well as being over £500,000 up on its growth targets in Q1 it has also already hired over 50 new employees this year.
Under the leadership of group president, international Annalise Coady, the agency invested in its team to make sure they were looked after in a challenging year and would avoid burnout, with extra holiday, support for working parents and home office budgets. The agency also allocated more than £100,000 in direct spend for learning and development, with employees spending a combined 5,000+ hours throughout the year in training. In March, Real Chemistry created its DE&I EMEA Council; an initial survey of staff found that 92% agreed that people from all cultures and backgrounds were respected and valued and 91% felt included and respected at work. The research has informed a new DE&I strategy, and the agency is using Textio, a tool that reviews job advertisements to ensure they are inclusive and unbiased.
The agency’s biggest piece of thought leadership in Europe was its Relevance Report, released in partnership with our US team, which tracks the relevance of healthcare companies and how they handled the pandemic. The quality of the agency’s work – much of which remains confidential – led to its NPS score increasing eight points in its most recent client satisfaction survey. The team also partnered with a number of organisations pro bono to help them through the pandemic, including global healthcare bodies, research firms and charities.
— Maja Pawinska Sims
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