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Founded in 2011 when Peter Finn spun off from Ruder Finn into a standalone business, Finn Partners has expanded organically and via acquisition into one of the largest independents in the US. There’s a strong consumer practice, including deep domain expertise in fashion and beauty and travel and lifestyle marketing; a fast-growing global health capability capable of competing with the best specialist firms; a tech practice that was the stellar performer of 2021; and specialist offerings in the arts and in education. In Asia, meanwhile, Finn acquired Indian-led firm SPAG in 2022, adding formidable research, digital, creative and medical content expertise to SPAG’s existing capabilities in pharma, medtech, public health, wellness and corporate.
Headquartered in New York, Finn Partners has US offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Ft Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orange County, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC, as well as growing international network. SPAG has grown beyond its three Indian offices to now operate a growing Singapore presence, along with offices in Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Greater China.
In 2022, fee income for Finn globally hit $197 million (up by 21,5% over the previous year) with North America accounting for $167 million of that, and while there were acquisitions again last year—AHA, an integrated marketing firm with strong employee engagement credentials, sustainability consultancy the Winston Agency, food and wellness boutique Rachel Kay Agency —the vast majority of the growth was organic. Healthcare is now Finn’s largest practice, having recently overtaken technology, and clients include Meharry Medical, LifePoint Health, Vanderbilt University Medical Center as well as numerous confidential pharma clients. SPAG rebounded from a slow 2021 to post 20% growth in 2022, with India up 30% thanks to continued expansion into health tech, employee engagement and internal comms. There was new business from Astra Zeneca, Roche, GE Healthcare, Practo, Medika Bazaar, Alkem, Mankind Specialties, Avantor, Reckitt and Allo Health, along with John Hopkins’ tobacco control mandate in Asia — reflecting SPAG’s ability to extend work across its growing Asian footprint. Key existing clients are Roche, Varian, GIPS, Herbalife, Bayer, Janssen, Aum Biosciences, Novo Nordisk and Abbott.
In the 12 years since Finn’s founding, it has been guided by Peter Finn’s vision of creating “a world-class agency with a heart and a conscience,” which has been critical in helping Finn attract both talent and acquisition partners—and clients too no doubt. The vision is manifested in a culture that starts with principled leadership, and emphasizes partnership, passion, and positive impact. Not surprisingly, therefore, Finn has been a leader in DEI, one of the first firms to release real data (26% of the current workforce is BIPOC, and 33.4% of new hires). The firm has launched a number HIP groups (hobbies, interests and passions) which aim to bring people together; offers for DEI scholarships; and partners with the Diversity Action Alliance and the Urban League, among others. Key healthcare leaders include global chair Gil Bashe, managing partner Fern Lazar, and SPAG founders Aman and Shivani Gupta.
With more than 275 professionals and truly global reach, Finn’s global health practice is now among the largest, and yet somehow manages to punch above its weight in terms of thought leadership, with Bashe and Lazar championing a new range of services that includes global brand marketing, clinical trial recruitment, digital health marketing and global public health. There has also been a notable uplift in SPAG's thought leadership output, most notably the Digital Health Report with Galen Growth, along with specific research into younger employees and health change agents. Work for Meharry (attracting more Black doctors to the profession); St Jude’s (“Facing War, Fighting Cancer”) were among the firm’s 10 SABRE nominated campaigns this year.
— Paul Holmes / Arun Sudhaman
Initially reporting into WPP’s Cohn & Wolfe, GCI Health was able to build a strong identity for itself as the giant holding company’s only healthcare-focused public relations firm, and—now reporting to BCW—has established itself as a global leader in healthcare PR. GCI Health is focused exclusively on healthcare communications, but that hasn’t prevented the firm from diversifying its operations in recent years, as health PR has taken on new challenges, including more integrated digital and social campaigns, content creation, and more public health, social impact work, and public affairs and corporate reputation assignments.
Headquartered in New York, GCI Health has a strong national network (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, DC) as well as a Toronto office, an established presence in the UK and Germany, and a growing Asia-Pacific operation. In total, the firm has about 530 people across 26 offices.
In a challenging environment for healthcare (clinical data delays and a downturn in biotech, combined with the aftershocks of the Covid pandemic), GCI Health enjoyed another strong year, with North American revenues up by better than 12%--and with 73% global growth over the past three years. With 530 people around the world, GCI now has one of the largest global footprints of any healthcare specialist and has become a destination firm for leading companies in the sector, with a client list that includes Abbott, Astellas, Biogebm Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol Myers Squibb, Colgate, Eisai, Janssen, Lilly, Merck, Organon, Regeneron, Sanofi, and Walgreens. There were 37 new client accounts in 2022, including Amarin (corporate communications support for the cardiovascular portfolio), Lundbeck (product communications for migraine), Harvard University (connecting with BIPOC students on mental health issues); and health and wellness provider The Aspen Group.
GCI Health’s ongoing DE&I journey continues to feature a three-pillared approach: ongoing efforts to increase cultural fluency and understanding, identifying inclusive champions, and encouraging diverse perspectives. Global CEO Kristin Cahill has now been in that role for a little more than two years, during which GCI has continued the growth trajectory it enjoyed under predecessor Wendy Lund. Her leadership team includes president of North America Sherry Goldberg, GM of Canada Kristy Derkson, chief growth officer Eleanor Petigrew. Chief insights and strategy officer Amy Inzanti, chief people officer Nesa Johnson, and head of DEI Dante Cunningham—the latter three among the new additions to the team over the past 12 months, during which time the firm also strengthened its digital, influencer, content and paid media capabilities.
GCI Health is focusing on some of the key developments in the healthcare arena: the democratization of healthcare, as Americans become more empowered in the management of their own health outcomes; harnessing influencers to talk about issues ranging from diabetes to concussion using channels such as TiKTok and gamification; enhancing clinical trial recruitment through the savvy use of digital channels; and promoting health equity by centering identity experience, using the firm’s “cultural health intelligence” approach for messaging and storytelling, while addressing biases. Highlights of the client work include positioning Eisai as a leader in Alzheimer’s drug development, using immersive technology and 3D rendering to tell the story in an engaging way; partnering with Rebel Wilson to change perceptions of concussions for Abbott, ultimately building a coalition of 18 advocacy organizations; and using improved targeting to and segmentation to reach people with HIV for ViiV.
— Arun Sudhaman
Founded a little more than two decades ago as WeissCom, a biotech-focused healthcare specialist, the firm was renamed W2OGroup in 2010, by which time it had established itself as an integrated healthcare communications group with multiple acquisitions spanning advertising, digital, data and analytics and more. Early in 2021, there was another evolution, to Real Chemistry, focusing on “the real chemistry between people and the brands born to change their lives.” Not surprisingly, the growth story (see below) has been the dominant narrative around Real Chemistry—which won Large Agency of the Year two years ago—with the firm’s proliferation of non-traditional services also serving to set it apart from the competition. But Real Chemistry continues to be, at its core, a healthcare PR firm—the largest in the world.
US offices include the San Francisco headquarters; Atlanta; Austin; Baltimore; Beverly Hills, CA; Boston; Chicago; Florham Park, NJ; Los Angeles, CA; Minneapolis, MN; Montclair, NJ; New Hope, PA; New York, NY (3 locations); Pasadena, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Washington, DC; Wilmington, NC. The firm also has more than 250 people in EMEA, the bulk of whom are located in the UK.
It has taken Real Chemistry just 21 years to build a half-billion business, a remarkable track record of growth in a business where only seven firms have ever reached that milestone. Only in that context could CEO Shankar Narayanan seem a little rueful about 17% growth in 2022 (“a little short of our internal target”)—which was still enough for Real Chemistry to end the year with revenues of $556 million. There were two acquisitions (conversationHealth and TI Health) which contributed to the growth, but the vast majority was organic. And it is interesting to note that while RC does not look much like a traditional public relations agency, integrated marketing and communications continues to account for about 45% of revenues, with data and AI contributing about 30% of the total, and “commercial and medical solutions” the remaining 25%--though the firm does its best work when all three segments work in harmony. New clients in 2022 included expanded integrated business with Galderma, new brand assignments from Pfizer and Takeda, and work from GSK and Novartis, as well as growth outside of big pharma with clients such as Better Therapeutics, Cutera, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Matternet, and Shield Therapeutics. They join a roster that includes big names like AstraZeneca, Diageo, Genentech, Incyte, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, and Sobi.
One of the interesting things about the leadership team, now led by Narayanan, is just how genuinely entrepreneurial it is: global president and chief client officer Jennifer Gottlieb was essentially a co-founder of predecessor W2O, while head of commercialization and medical solutions Robert Blink, head of integrated marketing communications Kevin Johnson, and head of data and AI solutions Ron Elwell all founded their own firms before selling to Real Chemistry. Integrating so many diverse acquisitions has been (and continues to be) a challenge, but the firm is investing more in its culture and reputation as an employer, winning its first Best Place to Work award in 2022, expanding its professional development offer, offering enhanced sabbatical and parental leave options, and paying bonuses to close to 100% of staff last year. The firm has a new DE&I Lab, has revamped onboarding to emphasize inclusivity, and incorporazted bias awareness into its review process.
While the media circus around ChatGPT has focused a lot of PR agencies on the literary merits of AI, Real Chemistry has been using artificial intelligence in far more sophisticated ways for many years: it is focusing on the predictive ability of data and AI to identify people who might be at risk of particular diseases and candidates for particular therapy, as well as to identify the best channels through which to reach both patient populations and medical professionals. The addition of TI Health last year added improved targeting of healthcare professionals, while the launch of 21Gaming, a new discipline, gave RC gamification capabilities, and conversationHealh gives the firm the ability to create personalized virtual experiences. Health equity has been another area of focus. The firm earned seven SABRE nominations for work ranging from “Cancer Care is Different” for City of Hope to “Focus on Your Lungs” for Merck, while Real Chemistry also managed an influencer marketing campaign featuring Schitt’s Creek actress Annie Murphy promoting contraceptive freedom for Evofem.
— Paul Holmes
In the 27 years since launching Spectrum Science, Jonathan Wilson has built an agency hyper focused on health care offering clients services that go beyond traditional PR across channels and specialties. Spectrum continues to diversify its capabilities and expertise across advertising, marketing, medical communications and clinical trial recruitment, most notably through three eye-catching acquisitions in 2022 — Sonic Health, the Seismic Collaborative, and UK consultancy Aurora. In addition, Spectrum continues to build its CTR services that offer patient insights, clinical study identity and messaging, study recruitment plans based on region and more—and recently launched a propriety patient recruitment platform called TrialBlazer.
Spectrum Science has offices in Washington (HQ), New York, Atlanta and Chicago.
Spectrum’s revenue surged by 63% to $80m in 2022, fueled by acquisition and a 56% win percentage in new business pitches. New clients included Sight Sciences Global, Vertex Therapeutics, Gaia Herbs, BeiGene, Sunovion Sumitomo, and PacBio, joining an existing client roster that features AbbVie, Foundation Medicine, Heron Therapeutics, Horizon Therapeutics, Mirati Therapeutics, Moderna, Neurocrine Biosciences, Regeneron, Takeda Neuroscience and Burt’s Bees. Of note, Spectrum’s work spans such areas as preclinical development through loss of patent exclusivity, with an integrated model that blends client service, strategy, creative and innovation.
Wilson is supported by president Michelle Gross, chief strategy officer Michelle Strier, chief creative officer Justin Rubin, and chief innovation officer Robert Oquendo, while notable hires included the firm’s first chief scientific officer in Chetan Vijayvergiya. Cultural highlights included mental health support and therapy, guided meditation, a learning and development program, a fellowship program, and an agency concierge. Spectrum’s DEI commitments includes agreements to use diverse vendors and develop six campaigns around health issues impacting underrepresented communities. The firm has increased diversity within its staff by 33%, initiated protocols for diverse hiring and continues to share an internal newsletter that highlights diverse talent and resources. Most recently, Spectrum launched Healthspanic—a journey started by a dedicated group of Spectrum employees whose aim is to improve the lives of the Hispanic community through learning opportunities and activities.
Spectrum’s thought leadership has leaned towards recent events that jeopardise people’s health, including gun violence, women’s reproductive health, LGBTQ+ rights and democracy. Among campaign highlights are the ‘Sage by Gaia’ online magazine to bolster the connection between human and planetary health; multichannel recruitment for Moderna’s RSV vaccine; and awareness raising of NMOSD for Horizon Therapeutics in association with a range of advocacy partners.
— Arun Sudhaman
The world’s second largest public relations agency, Weber Shandwick's healthcare operations have become a critical driver of the agency's growth, particularly in EMEA and Asia-Pacific. In 2022, after a couple of fatiguing couple of years of pandemic focus, the EMEA health practice – led by Rachael Pay – was reinvigorated with senior strategic hires and increased integration and collaboration across The Weber Shandwick Collective agencies, as well as developing centres of health excellence in several markets: corporate health in Geneva, digital innovation in London, creative in Paris, and healthcare professional communications in Frankfurt. Significantly, the firm has devoted considerable energy to an “intersectional” strategy which recognises that today’s PR challenges are complex and cross-functional, and nowhere, perhaps, is that more important than for its healthcare practice — which regularly combines expertise from the firm’s formidable technology, corporate and consumer operations. In addition to pharma, there is significant depth in therapeutic, regulatory/compliance, medtech, consumer health, brand, and medical education, along with new offerings focused on women’s health, health strategy, and arming Asian doctors with relevant Asian data.
Weber Shandwick has around 300 healthcare communications professionals across the EMEA region, including in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, France, and the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey (MENAT). There are more than 100 people across Weber Shandwick’s Asia-Pacific healthcare practice, including significant operations in Japan and the Hong Kong/Singapore cross-market hub.
Weber Shandwick’s health practice across EMEA had single-digit growth in 2022 with strong margins, retaining 100% of its top 20 health clients across the region. The agency introduced a ‘fewer, bigger, better’ approach to new business, which increased overall win value by 5% and led to 70% pitch conversation, including new briefs from Novartis Oncology, Abbott and Sanofi Olympics. There were also deeper partnerships across shared Weber Shandwick Collective clients such as Novartis, and the agency laid the groundwork for a new women’s health proposition for 2023. Healthcare was again Weber Shandwick’s strongest-performing sector in Asia-Pacific in 2022, growing at double-digit rate across the region thanks to specific expansion in Japan (+37%), Korea (+27%), China (past the $1m mark) and Hong Kong (+38%). Expanded business from MSD (across corporate, policy, consumer, digital and employee engagement) makes it the firm’s biggest regional healthcare client, but there were also major new assignments from Moderna, Merz, Viatris, Ferring, United Healthcare, Fresenieus, Boehringer Ingelheim and Unisys. Much of that reflects Weber Shandwick’s ability to provide creative and strategic insight, along with counsel into such areas as as ESG, DEI and employee engagement, for a client roster that also features Novartis, Abbott, Illumina, Pfizer and BMS.
In EMEA, senior health hires included Kristen Dimmock as health of health strategy for the UK and EMEA, James Wetmore as head of health in Switzerland, Yvonne Moeller as head of international health in Germany, and Esin Cittone as executive creative director for health in London, as well as expanded roles for other leaders across the region. In Asia, key figures include Hong Kong/Singapore healthcare EVPs Robert Broad and Windcy Chan while Kaoru Nakagawa and Wei Wei head healthcare in Japan and China, respectively. The new Weber Shandwick Collective has four core values—curiosity, courage, inclusion and impact—and “DE&I and values” are viewed as inseparable, with inclusion laying the groundwork for equity and belonging. In EMEA and Asia, there has been significant progress to empower employees to lead initiatives that foster collaboration, mutual support and belonging.
Weber Shandwick's creative capabilities remain in strong shape, reflected in a thought leadership platform that focuses on solving at the intersections, at a time when the overlap between practice areas and sectors calls for a more integrated mindset. That approach has brought particularly benefits in terms of Weber Shandwick’s work across business/society, health and brand, along with a strategy and analytics/insights practice that spans cultural relevance, ESG, change/employee management, geopolitical strategy/risk and Asian companies going global. In the healthcare space, it is particularly notable in the Women’s Health offering that includes proprietary data, in-culture workshops and female-focused campaigns. EMEA highlights include SABRE recognition for the ‘Last Mile’ campaign for the International Red Cross, and the #22WeekWait campaign to improve mental health care in Germany for Deutsche DepressionsLiga. Other notable work included pro bono work in Ukraine for Health Tech Without Borders, and the production of a book for Abbott, ‘The Next Chapter’, featuring women’s stories about menopause around the world.
— Maja Pawinska Sims / Arun Sudhaman
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