2018 Annual Report: Healthcare Communications Agencies Overview – A Year Of Steady Successes

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Pharma advertising agencies found 2017 to be a good year for business, by many measures.


2017 was a very good year for many of the agencies profiled in this annual directory featuring the leading healthcare communications agencies. Some reported individual setbacks, but they were still able to overcome these. As a wave of new drugs and biologics hit the market, several of the top healthcare agencies supported their launches.

For Category I Agency of the Year Area 23, 2017 was especially noteworthy for major product launches, with five agency clients reaching their all-important PDUFA milestones, executives say. Among them, Synergy Pharmaceuticals Inc. launched its first FDA-approved product, Trulance, for the treatment of chronic idiopathic constipation. Bayer’s Aliqopa, a much-awaited PI3K inhibitor indicated for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed follicular lymphoma, also received FDA approval last year.

Continuing its momentum into the fall, Area 23’s GSK vaccine team – composed of more than 60 agency staffers – executed the launch of Shingrix, a next-generation vaccine for shingles. To cap off the year, Indivior’s Sublocade was introduced into the opioid-use disorder space. Additionally, Alecensa received a first-line indication for ALK+ NSCLC (non-small cell lung cancer).

Not everything was smooth sailing for the agency, as Managing Director Renée Mellas reported. “We had a series of major setbacks at the FDA and within clinical trials,” Mellas says. “In fact, if you tallied all the failures and rejections, we were pitted against a roughly $30 million loss – where any other agency would have instituted layoffs. But that’s just not part of our culture.”

Area 23 executives instead welcomed the challenge to drive organic growth and win a tremendous amount of new business to offset the loss and turn the tide. Not only was Area 23 able to recoup the loss, the agency closed the year with 12 agency-of-record new business wins, seven of which were DTC, and two in late December that totaled more than $10 million in revenue.

According to Mellas, “If you follow the math, when confronted with such an astronomical loss in revenue from these false starts, you’d think there’s no way we could bounce back with a surplus before the year’s end. But these 12 new assignments represented about $45 million in new revenue, which not only made up for the losses, but allowed us to careen past every projection and cross the $100 million mark. And you can’t point to one team or department. Everyone in the agency is to thank for this result. They all really came together to make this happen, and we’re just so absolutely proud of that.”

Harrison and Star receives the 2018 Manny Award for the Best Launch Campaign, for its work on Gilead’s Truvada for PrEP. Executives say the campaign for Truvada PrEP truly has the potential to change behaviors, as physicians immediately think of their own patients who might contract HIV that very night if they do not try to intercede. The agency says Gilead is holding it up as the new standard of advertising excellence for all future launches. “And one of the leading and most vocal KOLs in the HIV community saw the campaign and sent a note to Gilead, telling them how impressed he was that a pharma ad had so perfectly captured the right, balanced message for PrEP and would clearly communicate to his colleagues which of their patients they should think about for and how they can intercede for good,” executives say.

Category III Agency of the Year finalist Sentrix Health Communications had four launches in five months, which executives say is an outstanding feat for an agency of just 50 to 60 people. Management says all Sentrix employees worked on a launch during the past year. The launches included two high-science hematology/oncology products within three weeks of each other for Pfizer, as well as the launched of Heplisav-B, the first new hepatitis B vaccine in decades; and a new, first-line indication for Bosulif.

At the network level, The Access Group also reported that 2017 was a good year for launches. “Our dedicated staff championed 28 launches and added 11 new clients in 2017,” they say. “Ranked a top 100 agency for five consecutive years, The Access Group represents 61 clients, including 17 of the 25 top pharmaceutical manufacturers.”

Early 2018 saw the creation of Syneos Health Communications, formerly inVentiv Health Communications. The switch happened as the result of a merger between parent company inVentiv Health and INC Research. “Post-merger, Syneos Health Communications continues to be the only healthcare communications network that is part of a company on the frontlines of healthcare,” executives say. With that change came the merging of Palio into GSW, which agency leadership says creates “a powerhouse advertising team purpose-built for healthcare and taking our competitive advantage to greater heights.”

Executives say the merger increased GSW’s ability to serve clients, thanks to the agency’s strong connectivity to the full suite of capabilities offered through the Syneos Health organization, as customers are able to combine full-service teams across disciplines, or work with just one agency in the network. As part of a fully integrated clinical and commercial team, Syneos Health Communications agencies receive insights generated far earlier in the clinical trial process, allowing for the development of strategic and targeted multichannel programs, agency leaders say.

“As a Syneos Health company, GSW provides a distinct advantage over competitors based on our diverse portfolio of offerings and our ability to deliver integrated services,” says GSW-Canada President Mark Jazvac. “Working with and within a single organization has gained favor with clients, making our access to sister Syneos Health firms even more desirable, and it allows us to provide better results for clients, their customers, and ultimately patient.”

Executives say the fusion of GSW with sister agency Palio brings “amazing” talent together, and drives scale for East Coast operations as well as expanding West Coast biopharma and medtech offerings. The full advertising suite now operates under the singular GSW brand. Kim Johnson, president of Palio since 2014, assumed leadership of the combined operations as president of GSW-New York and Santa Monica. Michael Austin serves as managing director, creative and technology, GSW, and partners with Nick Capanear, executive creative director, GSW-New York.

The network Precision Value & Health was formed in 2017 by parent company Precision Medicine Group. “Precision Value & Health unites the industry leading Precision service lines that help clients establish the clinical, economic, and humanistic value of innovative therapies to payers, healthcare professionals, and patients,” executives say. “In so doing, Precision Value & Health is expanding global market access for patients and improving health outcomes.”

Bolstering the company for rapid growth, according to managers, Precision Value & Health benefited from an investment of $275 million dollars led by Berkshire Partners and TPG Growth, along with original investors Oak Investment Partners and J.H. Whitney. “This significant investment has positioned Precision Value & Health to undertake its next growth phase, focused on the expansion of its global footprint and providing additional scale and services to accelerate the development, approval and commercial success of innovative medical treatments,” executives say.

In focusing and aligning business objectives, Precision Value & Health also developed and launched new business unit Precision Xtract in October 2017 to further consolidate its global market access capabilities and align complementary services to represent an unparalleled, industry-leading consultancy, management says. “Precision Xtract offers unified evidence evaluation, health economics and outcomes research, pricing, reimbursement, global market access, and payer analytics support to pharmaceutical and life sciences innovators,” executives say. “In aligning complementary offerings previously associated with different aspects of Precision’s business, its leaders assessed activities across the companies and recognized components consistent with global market access, identifying a unique opportunity to combine and consolidate the capabilities.”

In late 2017, Precision Value & Health significantly expanded its global market access capabilities through the acquisition of New York-based market access consultancy Insight Strategy Advisors, allowing for greater support of value demonstration, pricing, reimbursement, and distribution for biopharmaceutical companies, according to managers. “The acquisition deepened and broadened the core market access offering with a particular emphasis on quantitative pricing and distribution,” executives say. “In addition, cutting-edge data harmonization and analytics services are now maximized through the combination of expertise represented by Precision Xtract and Insight Strategy Advisors. Precision Xtract initially consisted of over 100 market access professionals when launched and with the acquisition of Insight Strategy Advisors this total was increased to just over 150 individuals.”

For Category II Agency of the Year Concentric Health Experience, its leadership teams says the agency grew by 40 percent versus the previous year, with the primary driver in 2017 attributed to growth within existing client engagements. “CHX is no slouch at new business, either, winning nearly 70 percent of its pitches,” executives say. “Together, this performance marks a CAGR of 35 percent over the past five years.” The agency founders attribute it to a concerted focus on fully integrating CHX’s clients’ brands and a laser focus on attracting the right opportunities.

Category I Agency Intouch Solutions continued its steady trajectory of growth in 2017, reaching a milestone $110 million in revenue – the agency’s best year yet, executives say. “Thirty-four major account wins fueled that growth, including an avalanche of full-service AOR brand assignments that doubled the number of AOR designations,” executives say. “Intouch repeatedly saw its client relationships reignited, its agency role expanded, and geographic footprint widened with more West Coast and global work.’

In February 2017, Intouch and leading European healthcare agency Healthware International formed a joint venture to better serve global clients. Intouch leaders say by year-end, the joint venture had already realized several major global wins including Galderma/Nestle Skin Health.

With rally cries including “kill conformity” and “it’s better to fail big rather than win small,” TBWA\WorldHealth is on a new business fast track with an impressive 80 percent win rate record of 32 wins, including 10 without a pitch, agency leaders say. New business from cutting-edge clients includes Gilead, Merck, Amgen, Shire, and Seqirus. TBWA\WorldHealth achieved a 30 percent expansion in organic growth with high-profile clients such as Teva, Bayer, and Takeda. The agency credits its “Client Success Plan” initiative for a phenomenal 100 percent client retention.  This innovative, highly responsive program helps to assure that clients are 100 percent satisfied with every aspect of the agency-client relationship every day, executives say.

Breakthrough creative ideas include the “It’s TRU” campaign telling real patient stories while receiving the most-prescribed immunotherapy treatment for cancer. TBWA\WorldHealth also embarked on an unprecedented partnership to disrupt opioid addiction, agency leaders say, bringing together a leading pharma company, one of the largest athletic wear companies, and a leading medical center.

Staff expansion for TBWA\WorldHealth included 52 new hires in 2017; 20 percent were based on employee referrals. Agency staff advanced with 22 promotions, all while experiencing amongst the lowest turnover of all the Omnicom Health Group agencies. According to managers, talent has thrived, fostered by the agency’s unique accountability mindset. More than 65 job accountabilities were created, disrupting the conventional “job descriptions,” and providing clarity on what’s next in terms of career growth, executives say.

Several smaller agencies expanded their reach by being picked up by larger networks, In April 2017, SCOUT joined The Stagwell Group, which executives characterize as “a very different sort of holding company that is built for the future.” According to agency leaders, SCOUT was acquired based on its strong history of success as a leading healthcare agency and its strong expertise in digital strategy and execution.

According to President Raffi Siyahian, “For the clients of SCOUT, one of the significant benefits of the Stagwell acquisition is that SCOUT now has an expanded set of capabilities to bring to bear. From influencer marketing to digital media to research and analytics, SCOUT now has sister companies that can help us develop more comprehensive solutions that work with both HCPs and consumers.”

In July 2017, San Diego-based Carling Communications joined the Fishawack Group of Companies, one of the world’s largest independent medical communications organizations, with eight offices around the globe. Agency leaders say the unification provides additional resources for Carling clients and employees, and bolsters Fishawack with strategic and creative commercial expertise.

Chief Creative Officer Sherri Wilkins believes that Carling Communications is officially positioned as a major world player to provide valuable marketing solutions to a broader range of agency clients. “Our union with Fishawack signifies a groundswell of opportunity in what we can bring to our clients in the U.S. or anywhere in the world,” Wilkins says. “The skills of our two agencies complement one another and provide synergies that will significantly benefit current and future clients. I’m encouraged to watch us thoughtfully build on a shared vision of strategic excellence, while also continuing to help our clients influence behavioral change with integrity.”

HCB Health  launched an effort in 2017 to become ‘The Listening Agency,’ “as that was what our clients consistently told us we did best,” agency leaders say.

To validate that new agency position, HCB Health decided to do what its clients do: get data. “We commissioned a survey of 50 pharma, device and biotech VPs of marketing and product managers to find out if this idea had merit,” executives say. “Our findings showed that too many agencies are talking. Telling. Speaking. And driving the conversation with the customer so much that few were hearing their customers’ true needs.”

According to HCB Health’s leaders, rather than focusing on selling their services, clients want agencies to listen and think to find the best solutions for their brands.

“We live in a world where information comes at us constantly, and we are distracted by our devices and our desires to multitask,” says Nancy Beesley, partner and chief commercial officer at HCB Health. “All great advertising starts with insight, and insight only comes from listening.”

For another Category III agency, natrel, 2017 was the launch of its “Bilateral Branding” self-branding effort. According to Nicole Hyland, general manager, “Bilateral Branding is the purposeful combination of intellectual drivers with emotional influences. By tapping into the left and right sides of the brain – think of it as touching the mind as well as the heart – we’re able to create meaningful connections with those who sell, prescribe, and use our clients’ brands.

“Our people have embraced the idea of this bilateralism and have gained an appreciation for how it defines who we are, what we do, and how it advances our client’s success and growth. That’s why we call our employees bilateralists – they intuitively get the heart-mind connection, and it resonates.”

Hyland attributes natrel’s growing success with Bilateral Branding to its independence and experience in building brands globally for nearly 20 years. “We answer only to our clients, so we’ve had the freedom to explore new and better ways to address their needs,” she says. “Over the years, we’ve developed this proprietary branding process, which builds our clients’ brands from insight development through execution.”

Many agencies expanded their reach inside and outside of the United States. In 2017, the JUICE Global Network opened another Hub office in Zurich, Switzerland, as part of its global leadership offering. Zurich-based JUICE EMEA provides executive oversight across a wide-expanse of agencies in service to regional markets within Europe, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific regions, establishing the standards for regional, cultural, and regulatory adaptation of global brand campaigns, executives say.

In June 2017, Carling Communications opened an office in London to better serve Carling’s growing roster of non-U.S.-based clients.

Category 1 Agency CDM launched CDM Tokyo, run by longtime CDM veteran Adam Weiss. “CDM Tokyo has established the agency as a major presence in the world’s second-largest healthcare market,” Weiss says. “And we’re not just local to Japan; we’re able to service the entire Asia-Pacific region from this location. That’s the power of our network.”

TBWA\WorldHealth during 2018 will open its sixth U.S. office in Boston, the fastest-growing biotech sector in the United States, working with a leading biotech company as an anchor client. “We are going where our clients are – and it’s paying off. We have a healthy and diverse roster upon which to build, and we’re choosing to work with the best of the best.”

According to Sharon Callahan, CEO of TBWA\WorldHealth and Med Ad News’ 2018 Industry Person of the Year, “Our vision for 2018 is to be the one-of-a-kind partner to the world’s most ambitious healthcare brands.”

For HCB, “With growth comes new digs; HCB Chicago will be moving into a full floor in the heart of downtown,” executives say. “And with two strong clients firmly rooted in California, HCB begins to look at a footprint on the West Coast as well as additional staff in New Jersey.”

Personnel changes also fueled 2017 growth and expansion. As the year began, announced major changes to creative leadership, installing a worldwide creative director and a U.S. creative director – committing to expanding its creative reputation all over the world. Olly Caporn, executive creative director of CDM London, also assumed the role of worldwide creative director for the agency. “I see my primary role as raising standards of creativity across the network,” Caporn says. “The time to raise the bar is when you are doing well, so now is the perfect time to step it up.”

Debra Polkes, executive creative director of CDM Princeton, was named U.S. creative director, overseeing the creative people and output of the network’s two biggest agencies: CDM New York and CDM Princeton, working in collaboration with Caporn. “My role will be to inspire groundbreaking and lifechanging work – and to elevate our talent and reputation across both agencies,” Polkes says. “It’s a big challenge, but I’m excited for what’s ahead.”

Early in the year, Chris Palmer, formerly executive creative director, took on the role of president for the New York shop. “Over the course of the year, we’ve made some profound changes to our agency structure and leadership team – and we’re excited about where we’re headed in 2018,” Palmer says.

CDM New York has organized into four central groups that mirror the organization of its clients: CDM Core (which serves PCP and general medicine brands), CDM Specialty, CDM Oncology, and CDM Rare. Organizing the agency into these groups – each under a creative director/client service director team – allows the agency to “go deep with expertise in the primary therapeutic areas in the industry, and get deeper into our clients’ business,” Palmer says.

“Oncology is the fastest-growing category in healthcare,” says Stephanie Schulman, managing partner of WildType, which is part of TBWA\WorldHealth “Coupled with therapeutic innovation, factors like genomic testing, big data, artificial intelligence, and consumerization are evolving the landscape at warp speed.”

Executives at LevLane say the agency’s 2017 successes will lead to future engagements in the specialty pharmaceutical and orphan drug marketplaces, its executive team says. In early 2018, the agency is planning to open an office in the Boston area to service the surging biotech industry in the region. Also, Kelly Sizemore will lead a new office in Kansas City, with a focus on senior care.

Leaders at Cello Health point out that in the next few years, dozens of gene and cell therapies — many of which focus on oncology and rare diseases — are expected to seek regulatory approval and hundreds are progressing in early development. Cello Health now comprises specialized “hubs” focused on oncology and rare disease. These cross-functional collaboratives are designed to integrate the collective team’s orphan drug development and commercialization knowledge and experience in order to offer strategic insights and end-to-end solutions to inform early strategic development decisions for assets with unique R&D, commercialization and reimbursement challenges. Cello Health continues to innovate its service offering and products, capitalizing wherever possible on the range of technical and digital advances available.

Cello Health’s Communications team recently launched a novel digital Virtual Advisory Platform that provides clients with a cost-effective approach to sustain engagements beyond the live meeting. Cello Health is preparing to launch the new service offering, called Cello Health Logic, which is a data science and social analytics unit that utilizes its proprietary Pulsar social media analytics platform in the health sector. The company continues to evolve the range of strategic planning tools and customized forecasting models it employs to differentiate Cello Health’s approaches across from the earliest stages of drug development onwards.

For Syneos Health Communications, “In 2018, we’re continuing to lead the industry with our Data Science offering,” executives say. “We’ve made a deliberate and focused effort on predictive capabilities, based on machine learning, agent-based modeling and advanced analytics.”

The network’s most recent product, Sync, is described by managers as the only data engine of its kind in healthcare, capable of driving informed decisions in channel selection, message strategy, and engagement spend – “all designed to use our own unique healthcare datasets and perspective to power brand performance for our clients.”

With an eye to the future, managers believe that Concentric Health Experience is well situated for the future, citing the massive disruption in the agency ecosystem as evidence of traditional agency demise.

“The traditional agency and network model is designed around services; thus it’s transactional and procured on cost,” says Ken Begasse, agency co-founder and CEO. “Our consultative model is a seamless, frictionless blend of strategy and continuous engagement. Since we have continued to innovate ahead of the curve, we’re positioned to grow with this trend as opposed to react to it. It’s simple: There is only so much cost to cut from the model before the value of market advantage becomes what matters most to all clients.”

Because of its deep experience in medical device and added strength in pharmaceuticals, HCB will be launching a Drug-in-Device Group to bring this blended expertise to a booming opportunity, executives say. Also, because of the explosion of digital requests, HCB will be expanding its digital center of excellence, which will span its three offices.

In addition, according to CDM leaders, this year will be the one in which the agency expands HealthWork, CDM’s joint venture with BBDO, which leverages the healthcare expertise of CDM and combines it with the consumer insights and expertise of BBDO. Denise Henry, who is the managing director of the joint venture, says “for the past eight years, HealthWork has been solely a U.S.-centric effort. This year, we’re taking the idea global – and have brought the model to CDM and BBDO offices in London, Paris, and Barcelona. And we’re looking to introduce HealthWork to other markets later in the year. It’ll be a big year for our partnership.”

For Category III Agency of the Year Calcium, the leadership team say besides focusing on continued growth, they will be concentrating on the agency’s most important asset: its people. “Now and for the future, Calcium is a ‘people first agency,’” executives say. “Jack Welch said ‘a company’s most valuable assets get on and off the elevator every day’. No one other agency values that more than ours. People are what makes Calcium great and all of Calcium’s people, from the top down, embraces our code of commitment, integrity, and respect. Those three words allow us to attract, keep, and grow the best talent. Having the best talent allows us to deliver the brand nourishment our client’s businesses need to succeed.”

In 2018, McCann Echo executives say the agency plans to reimagine its strategic planning department. Laura Morrison, recently promoted senior VP, director of strategic planning, says, “I’m going to focus on bolstering our offerings in digital strategy. While I’m confident in our current offerings, the moment we become complacent is the moment we get left behind.”

The JUICE Global Network is expanding its depth of global services through the addition of specialized capabilities that complement and enhance its mainstream offerings. These include establishing agency partnerships with expertise in clinical trial research, scientific/regulatory consulting, medical education, KOL and scientific communications, congress symposia, advocacy development, market access, events and media, and public relations.

Some of the core services that 2e Creative is known for are expanding with the addition of specialized staff. “For instance, we’ve always been good at naming, branding and launching new products, but now we’re providing business consulting services in the sales space,” says Ross Toohey, president. “Not only how the products are presented in-market but how they logistically enter the market by working with sales teams and back-end systems to provide a sales funnel strategy.”

With a record-breaking start to 2018 already in the books, Fingerpaint is forecasting $46 million in revenue, up from $32 million in 2017, according to its leadership team.

“When we account for consecutive years of double-digit growth, these numbers are staggering,” says Andy Pyfer, head of Fingerpaint’s Conshohocken office. “I’m amazed by the work ethic and collaborative spirit of our teams. There’s a hunger throughout the company to keep it going.”

To accommodate an ever-rising headcount, Fingerpaint Founder Ed Mitzen signed a letter of intent to buy and expand the agency’s headquarters in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. “It’s an investment in our future. Ultimately, we’re outgrowing our space, and everyone would much rather keep and develop an amazing building than try to find a new one.”

In Fingerpaint’s Scottsdale office, it’s the same situation, executives say. According to them, explosive growth necessitated a new office, and before long, that location will be close to capacity. Conshohocken is also continuing the upward momentum and strong growth that kicked off with their move to a new, larger space in 2016.

For Carling, the next few years will be focused on continued growth – growth of Carling’s global footprint, growth into additional therapeutic areas, and growth in number of outstanding employees. “In addition to a significant increase in talent in the San Diego office, in just nine months of operation we’ve already relocated our London team to recognize an immediate need for expansion,” Carling leaders say. “And to better serve our clients located on the east coast, Carling has also begun efforts to build a physical coast-to-coast presence.”

According to agency leaders, LevLane will expand on recent forays into diagnostics, including OTC, prescription-based, and subscription model diagnostic health services. These markets are poised for enormous growth as empowered healthcare consumers demand more and better control over their own health information and trajectory.

In 2018, executives at McCann Echo say the agency plans to reimagine its strategic planning department. Laura Morrison, recently promoted to senior VP, director of strategic planning, says, “I’m going to focus on bolstering our offerings in digital strategy. While I’m confident in our current offerings, the moment we become complacent is the moment we get left behind.”

Next year is expected to be a continuation of firsts, agency leaders note, as Neon takes up the mantle as “Launch Beast,” an attitude the agency claims it already embraces. Due to the past year of organic growth and new business wins, the agency is set to launch seven multi-category brands in 2018 thus far.

“Clients have entrusted their business to Neon, not only for their expertise, but for their fearlessness and ability to produce strategically savvy and uniquely creative work at an accelerated rate,” executives say. “The agency’s plan is to seize each and every opportunity to make brand impact, with the nimbleness and drive that the industry has come to expect. Excelling when the states are high, 2018 will be a banner year for first-in-class launches. All this work ladders up to their goal of winning ‘Most Creative Agency’ in 2019. It’s a bold design, but 2018 is expected to offer exactly the right opportunities to achieve it.”

Beyond launches, Neon plans to expand into a new office space at its current location, growing by approximately 20,000 square feet to accommodate a projected 50-80 new hires. As of February 2018, executives say the agency has already experienced double-digit growth and expects to continue this upward trend, all while retaining their culture and sense of family.

As Heartbeat closes the door on two decades of business, executives say, “it’s in our nature to search for ways to shake up our approach to healthcare marketing in the years to come.

“We didn’t have to look very far in this pursuit, as the collision of several industry forces is proving impossible to ignore: the rise of value-based care, the financial pressures of outcome-driven reimbursement, the growth of chronic conditions, and the challenge of delivering effective and enduring care in shorter patient visits,” Heartbeat executives say. “And, while each healthcare player – HCP, health system, payer, and patient – feels the effects of these forces, the pressure to find solutions seems to mostly rest on the HCP’s shoulders. However, physicians don’t have the time or resources to find comprehensive solutions that address the full continuum of outcome-related challenges.”

To remain relevant in this new landscape, Heartbeat’s leaders believe pharma marketers must expand beyond buying attention via brand-centric campaigns, and grow the value of their brand by delivering programs that ensure better outcomes.

“Thus, Heartbeat has squarely focused itself to identify ‘outcome optimization opportunities’ for our client partners and deliver them via the ubiquitous tool of the physician’s workflow: the HER,” executives say. “To support this effort, we have formed an exclusive partnership with health IT leader, Kameleon Partners, and bolstered our point-of-care and managed market practices to support the full spectrum of outcome-based challenges.”

After just five years, Fingerpaint’s full-time philanthropy lead has successfully created a robust company-wide model for corporate social responsibility, which is uncommon at a company of this size and unheard of at a pharma marketing agency. The agency contributed financially to 61 different charities in 2017, reaching more than 100 nonprofits in total when also counting those the agency gave to in terms of time and talent. These efforts snagged the agency the 2018 Manny Heart Award.

“If you ask employees why they love working at Fingerpaint, in some form, their answer will always include philanthropy,” management says.

“It’s one of those things that’s a token at most places,” says Angela Harrison, a veteran copywriter who traded New York City for Saratoga Springs in 2017. “Here, you can feel people’s passion for helping others when you walk through the door.”

In 2017, employees chose to forgo their annual summer picnic to take part in Fingerpaint’s first-ever Philanthropy Day, executives say. In late June, each office closed its doors to spend the day building bicycles and packing suitcases, or “sweet cases,” with toys for foster children, many of whom enter the system with nothing more than a trash bag of possessions. In addition to the toys and bags, the agency raised more than $11,000 for its partner charity, Together We Rise. In 2018, Fingerpaint’s second annual Philanthropy Day will tackle the issue of food insecurity.

The agency’s summer intern program had another successful year, with each office pairing its group of students with a local nonprofit, executives say. During their 10-week tenure, each team researched, planned, and implemented a pro bono campaign for their partner charity, culminating in a full pitch presentation at the end of the summer. In Conshohocken, interns worked with NephCure, the only nonprofit dedicated to focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a rare kidney disease. “The project was monumental for the organization and life changing for the interns, many of whom were working on their first campaign,” executives say.

According to its leaders, Fingerpaint will always be proactive in its philanthropic efforts, but 2017 was also a year of reaction to natural disasters. “After hurricanes tore through the U.S. and Caribbean, the agency responded immediately,” executives say. “In a few short days, the Saratoga Springs office and community rallied together on the #wegivetwotrucks initiative, filling two 42-foot tractor trailers with supplies and sending them south. Soon after, Operation Caribbean Christmas collected gift cards to ship to storm-ravaged communities in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”

Other Fingerpaint initiatives included partnerships with the Chronic Lung Disease Program’s Family Reunion at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Special Olympics New York.

All of the agencies profiled in this issue continue to be active in philanthropic efforts. Intouch Solutions, reacting to the hate crime in February 2017 that took the life of Indian-born Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the husband of Intouch employee Sunayana Dumala, strove to make an impact against the tide of hate that seemed to be rising in the United States.

In the days following the incident, Sunayana publicly questioned the immigrant community’s place in the United States, asking ‘Do we belong?’ Intouch created a plan to honor Srinivas’ memory, to spread a message of unity, and to answer those questioning that yes, they belong.

The program, Forever Welcome, launched in January 2018, just shy of the one-year anniversary of the incident. Within three weeks of launch, the Forever Welcome message had already reached more than 1 million people through social media and news coverage, featured by BuzzFeed News, Huffington Post, NBC, NPR, Fox and more.” At the 2017 Manny Awards ceremony, Med Ad News awarded its annual Heart Award to Dumala and Intouch.

GTO Greater Good is the nonprofit philanthropy arm of Greater Than One, and in 2017 it received a grant from the U.S. Mission to UNESCO to develop an interactive educational platform called PeaceWorX (www.peaceworx.org), designed to help stem the tide of violent extremism among youth.

“PeaceWorX enables and encourages young people to take on peacebuilding as a priority, both locally and globally,” says CEO Elizabeth Apelles. “It will build resilience against extremist messages through educational activities, community involvement, and social activism, and GTO is so honored to be creating it.”

Another Manny Heart Awards finalist in 2018 is MicroMass Communications. Working with the nonprofit With Change in Mind, MicroMass employees trained more than 150 women and 50 men in Malawi on anatomy, reproductive health, and family planning methods.