artificial intelligence

AI powers successes 

By Christiane Truelove | [email protected]

Once again it’s Manny time, and by the time you read this, you’ll hopefully have been with me (and the rest of the Med Ad News crew) for the evening at Pier Sixty where we gave out many awards and you got to celebrate with your peers.

2023 was definitely a busy year for many agencies as the world continued to move on from the pandemic. Despite economic headwinds, several of the agencies featured in this issue reported growth and an increase in the number of their clients and accounts held. The other commonality noted in these profiles was an unhesitating attitude towards the adoption of generative  and analytical AI tools for themselves and their clients, leading to new opportunities.

Exploring the promise of AI

According to executives at AREA 23, last year also marked the beginning of a transformative era in the advertising industry, spearheaded by the innovative use of artificial intelligence (AI).  “As pioneers in this evolution, we saw the potential of AI to not only accelerate processes but also to enhance creativity, resulting in many groundbreaking projects.”

“Rather than waiting for AI tools to be handed to us, we took the initiative to craft and make them accessible to the general public,” says Tim Hawkey, chief creative officer.

Leaders point to bAIgrapher, which was a finalist for the Best Patient Engagement Campaign Manny, as one notable example. The world’s first large “listening” model for people with Alzheimer’s generating personalized biographies from the testimonies from loved ones, it uses a special tool to preserve patients’ memories: patient’s memories.

Developed months before the emergence of ChatGPT and GPT4, the AI behind bAIgrapher is different: trained in more than 400 biographies, it is uniquely equipped to write a compelling life story. It also proposes a unique way of looking at the dynamics between AI and humanity. According to Hawkey, “There has been a lot of talk about AI as this threat that will replace jobs and people, but bAIgrapher is unique because it shows AI not only not replacing people; it highlights how irreplaceable we all are.”

AREA 23 won the Innovation Award at the Manny’s for another AI-fueled technology, Mind’s Eye, a collaboration with Deep AI and Amylyx that allows patients with motor neuron disease to create art. Mind’s Eye is a mobile app on the Smartbox GridPad device that overcomes AI accessibility barriers by allowing those with nearly no mobility to use the motion of their eyes to build prompts, render images, and share them.

Executives maintain that AREA 23’s journey with AI began with the vision of streamlining agency processes. “The aim was to automate the mundane, freeing up creative minds to focus on what they do best – innovate and experiment with groundbreaking ideas, and that change has been unmistakable,” agency leaders say. “We have harnessed the power of AI through the adoption of innovative marketing tools, plugins, and programs such as Runway ML, Photoshop Generative Fill, Stable Diffusion, and Dalle 3, to enhance efficiency across various mediums including linear TV, OLV, print, and digital ecosystems. These tools not only quicken the ideation process but also ensure quality is not compromised.”

According to managers, the agency’s technology and experience design departments have benefited the most from AI tools, leveraging tools such as Optimal Workshop to help conduct user research, card sorting, and tree testing, Figma, Adobe XD, and DeepCode for layout and development phases, and GitHub Copilot and Applitool for essential QA tasks.

“Our use of proprietary large language models (LLMs) has been particularly revolutionary, enabling us to delve into complex data sets and extract valuable, often elusive insights,” executives say. “We are going all in on the application of LLMs for groundbreaking new chatbot and virtual assistants that will prove the healthcare experience for HCPs and patients alike.”

“AI is here to stay,” says Franklin Williams, executive experience design director at AREA 23. “Teams that effectively use it to shorten the time it takes to go from nothing to something will consistently come out on top.”

At Patients & Purpose, executives see endless opportunities with AI to help the agency work smarter and harder for patients and brands, adding that while generative AI gets the bulk of the buzz, that is only the tip of the iceberg. With analytical AI, P&P is integrating disparate sources of data to uncover unique patient insights. With AI automation, the agency is creating and dynamically delivering modular content. P&P is even using pattern recognition platforms to help clients efficiently track and review claims across projects.

Leaders at Category I Agency of the Year Biolumina say the agency is pioneering the use of an AI-based tool that is intended to not replace employees, but instead enhance and improve their experience  by enabling teams to create and prepare content for marketing and MLR review faster, without compromising accuracy and compliance.

Executives claim this technology is the first tool of its kind for the pharmaceutical space. It provides teams with support across the creative process in areas like claims/message development, claims management, annotating and referencing, fact checking, and competitive-
message comparisons.

Additionally, Biolumina is piloting the use of several generative AI text-to-image offerings, engaging in partnerships that may reinvent the creation and delivery of creative content, helping them deliver more impactful customer experiences at scale. Leaders note the pilots are being carefully monitored to ensure no source material copyright is infringed, and no work goes to the public without human oversight and approvals.

At FCB Health New York leaders say the “powerhouse” of output at the agency is fueled by technology and data. “By relentlessly building on our tech and data capabilities, we continually innovate, challenge, and push beyond where we’ve been,” they state. “We simply refuse to speak impossible. This year, we’ve pushed the limits in conversational design, data visualization, and AI. To show our commitment to this new era in technology, we have invested over $4 million to ensure we stay ahead of the curve in all aspects of AI usage across all departments.”

Managers say FCBHNY is often the beta tester for the FCB Health network, launching new technology offerings and training people to master the tools of the future. “Our AI experts are deeply involved in all areas of our business and even hold weekly office hours so that everyone has opportunities in
real-time to experience and roll out the latest advances.”

According to leaders, TBWA\WorldHealth has also fully embraced the power of AI, and is currently integrating it into internal systems – especially as it relates to submission accuracy and automation. “As part of the OHG Claims offering, the agency is leveraging AI to deliver personalized content faster, without compromising compliance,” executives say. “More than just transforming compliance and speeding up the medical, legal, and regulatory affairs review process, this offering scales seamlessly with modular content and personalization. The innovative process includes leveraging artificial intelligence to streamline the auditing of claims from authorized promotional materials throughout the content life cycle. This not only establishes a unified foundation of approved claims and associated information, but ensures scalable growth and adaptability through modular content and personalized approaches.”

For EVERSANA INTOUCH , the agency and parent EVERSANA announced the first of several new generative AI-based innovations in development with Amazon Web Services. The first addresses the time-consuming and error-prone process of medical and regulatory content approvals.

The organization has also begun work with Adobe Firefly for Enterprise in several ways, including the agency network’s employment of its generative AI across Adobe Creative Cloud applications for EVERSANA ORCHESTRATE, “our end-to-end omnichannel solution.”

EVERSANA INTOUCH, which claims it is “pharmatizing AI,” highlights the “dozens” of AI workshops it has conducted to help clients understand how to implement artificial intelligence to make measurable, realistic improvements in their work today. “Teams bring the latest use cases as inspiration, then guide cross-functional teams to ideate solutions to their most pressing business challenges, resulting in prototype-ready concept sketches and blueprints to provide a business case for further buy-in and development,” executives say. “Following the workshop, EVERSANA INTOUCH teams continue to serve as partners in innovation to chart the path forward, prototype, and bring concepts to market.

At CMI Media and Compas, 2023, the agency expanded its use of custom AI services and support for clients as part of an ongoing focus on “meaningful and impactful” innovation. For example, CMI Media Group and Compas developed and implemented AI-driven task automation bots to deliver more effective ad trafficking for clients. The trained bots follow an extensive set of rules built around diverse types of campaigns and their complexities. “This shifted the investment from comprehensive human data entry and communication process to one that includes automation,” executives say. “The result is faster launches and more accurate campaign setup.”

Among the agencies in this issue, Klick may have come up with the most unique way of generating innovative AI applications for health care. The agency is offering the Klick Prize: $1 million to employees who come up with “the next huge, lifesaving AI ideas.” The agency in 2024 will continue to elevate its AI knowledge across all levels and teams, leaning into its culture of constant experimentation to develop more AI tools and programs for both internal and external stakeholders, managers say. “For instance, a judging panel of Klick clients will review the aforementioned Klick Prize entries and decide how to award the prize. Then Klick will invest additional funds to develop the best ideas into prototypes, products, and/or services.”

In 2023, Real Chemistry entered a new partnership with enterprise generative AI expert, doubling down on the company’s robust AI portfolio including Integrated Intelligence, and Swoop, as well as the company’s proprietary Insights System with ChatGPT, advanced prompt engineering, data integration, and automation capabilities.

“Our proprietary Real Chemistry Insight System (RCIS) taps into AI’s prowess to dissect patient and HCP data, unlocking strategic insights and streamlining decision-making. RCIS stands as our fastest, most insightful planning and analytics tool, shaping strategies and fueling creative content for communications, medical affairs, and advertising teams. Moreover, our Swoop umbrella of AI products pinpoints and engages high-value HCPs and patients precisely when it matters most. Swoop has launched conversational AI to boost brand experiences, and built Swoop predictive segments for outreach to undiagnosed, non-adherent, or progressing patients.

“We don’t just respond to queries – we proactively meet healthcare needs with tailored solutions that resonate deeply within the sector. Our AI capabilities extend from real world data analysis to social media content analysis, uncovering undiagnosed patients, generating real-time patient experiences with generative AI, and refining the MLR process. Real Chemistry is driving AI thought leadership, merging cutting-edge algorithms with creative insights to create seamless, pertinent, and supremely efficient healthcare solutions. Our mission is to spearhead advancements in healthcare information delivery through AI-driven innovations, ultimately fostering superior health outcomes.”

On the innovation front, 2023 saw Fingerpaint Group launch Wet Paint, its AI offering. “There is no doubt AI is a hot topic, which is why Fingerpaint Group has taken a step back from the hype cycle and looked across their entire business to discover how they can use AI to help amplify the things they are doing really well and enable them to do the things they’ve always wanted to do,” executives say.

“Taking a big-picture perspective helps us ignore all the small shiny stuff and stay focused on the enterprise-level impact we can make with this technology for our own business and that of our clients,” says Nick Spuhler, senior VP, director of applied AI. “Every solution we’re building must be both transformative and feasible, and that’s an approach we’re very proud of.”

At GSW, winner of the Best Managed Markets Campaign, the agency is leveraging technology such as generative AI to make the most of all the insights it has access to in the healthcare space. Storytelling is also a focus for 2024, with GSW taking notice of how personal and emotional health care can be for all stakeholders. “By activating a blend of data analytics, human understanding, and advanced AI capabilities, we’re able to craft stories that not only resonate, but they also help shape future outcomes,” says JD Cassidy, president of Syneos  Health Advertising North America.

According to Cassidy, a clear differentiator for the agency continues to be the Mindset Engine, a cutting-edge intelligence platform that aims to understand how doctors make choices, allowing GSW to access the deeper, smarter, more-specific insights that crystallize a story supported by data and rooted in human behavior.

“By pairing behavioral profiling with a diverse look at personal and professional preferences, this proprietary tool enables us to form a holistic understanding of what drives HCP choices and behaviors,” GSW executives say. “To date, the Mindset Engine is up to 12,000 physicians, spanning 30 HCP specialists.”

The Ogilvy Health Innovation team “continues to set [itself] apart from the rest by telling stories and delivering creative and content strategy through a wide variety of technologies and approaches, including AI-driven experiences,” agency leaders maintain. “Our Innovation Collab transforms information into tangible, exciting, and innovative experiences. We create VR data visualizers, AR visualizers, touchless in-person, self-driven experience, and gamification to give our clients the ability to reach their audiences in unique and interactive ways. It brings personality and intrigue to assignments, which propels customers to truly engage with the information they are absorbing.”

At McCann Health Managed Markets, leaders note how AI has been a primary headline over the past year. “Artificial intelligence – how does it work and what does it mean for our industry? At McCann Health Managed Markets (MHMM), we’re integrating AI and defining its place in our industry,” managers say.

“We see an immense potential in leveraging the power of generative AI as a tool to create more effective campaigns,” according to leaders at Inizio Evoke. “We have already begun to see the benefits of its application on content delivery to maximize speed and efficiency. When paired with our audience intelligence solutions, we can create more precise personas and segmentation, predict customer behavior, and even optimize ad placements.”

Entrée Health will be closely monitoring progress in AI and regulatory updates from Washington, D.C., leaders say. They expect AI and data to continue to be a force to be reckoned with. “In market access, understanding your audience is everything, and AI and data are effective and efficient ways to gain that insight,” executives say. “At the end of the day, stakeholders, including prescribers, patients, and payers, are people first, and now, we’re effectively leveraging the ability to understand what matters most to each of these groups as individuals.”

Executives at Category II Agency of the Year DDB Health state that much of the agency’s future plans are focused on emerging technologies. In 2024, DDB Health will be applying its generative AI tools to deliver highly efficient and data-driven work for clients. According to the leadership team, the agency has already been applying AI to several areas, including thought-leader and digital opinion-leader identification and claims management.

Through the “AI-Powered Media and Creative Solutions” strategic initiative at imre, leaders at that agency say they will continue to harness the power of AI to “elevate the pedigree and precision of the brand experiences we create. Imre is on track to incubate and scale cutting-edge content platforms that elevate the creation and delivery of campaign content.”

The leadership team at Humancare states the agency is “deeply committed” to the responsible assimilation of AI. “We wholeheartedly embrace the power of AI to extend and enhance our capabilities, and we’re eager, early adopters of technology that can help us connect our brands with the audiences who need to know about them – but we’re also very cognizant of creating and maintaining genuine human connections.   

Executives at CrowdPharm say the agency’s team jumped into exploring how using AI tools streamlined workflows and delivered exceptional results to clients. For example, AI was added to the proprietary application that runs the agency’s global talent network to identify and align talent to task. “By uploading a creative brief and job details, the AI tools search 9,200-plus members and identify those who are an excellent fit for the project at hand.”

The agency developed an AI-powered natural language search for members. “Using a simple text box, staff type in what they are looking for – for example, ‘I’m looking for a copywriter who speaks French and has expertise in rare disease’ – and AI returns a list matching candidates,” managers state. 

AI code generation was used to develop a program that automates PDF document creation from animated banner ads of multiple sizes, assembling all animated frames into a single-page document. “The result is one PDF in a matter of minutes versus hours of screen grabbing and layout, saving operations time and at least 40 hours of costly development work,” CrowdPharm leaders say.

Understanding that today’s generative AI systems leverage complex mathematical models and algorithms yet still need humans to unleash their full potential in enhancing productivity and fostering creativity, CrowdPharm’s AI Task Force developed a presentation for clients and prospects explaining how they responsibly accelerate creative with AI and published AI guidelines for contractors in the global talent network.

“You can’t talk about setting yourselves up for future growth without talking about AI,” says Frank Saia, senior VP of digital at PRYME. To that end, the agency invested in the digital department by adding critical talent to the team and building out AI capabilities.

“Our proprietary AI insights generator launched in the summer and has been leveraged across our entire portfolio of clients,” Saia says. “Whether they even know it or not, all of our client work has been informed or impacted by AI in one way or another.” One example of how PRYME is using AI includes generating insights, personas, and journeys to better understand clients’ customers.

According to managers at MedThink, integrating generative AI will enable the agency to identify novel solutions to clients’ challenges, adding that “MedThink is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this evolving dynamic so that we can continue to close the gap between scientific knowledge and clinical practice.”

“We have developed a clinical-influencer identification tool, powered by AI engineering to consider a multitude of factors to identify the right local influencers who will make a real impact for a brand,” according to leaders at RevHealth. “We see this new offering as a significant opportunity for RevHealth and our current, and future, clients.” The tool, AMPLIFAI, is a proprietary influencer targeting strategy and technology that the agency says reinvents KOL engagement by leveraging clinical influencers in regional and local clinical communities.

At ProHealth, leaders hope to “push the boundaries of HCP education and engagement with clients with new and innovative ideas such as exploration into the appropriate use of artificial intelligence.”

By using Google’s Vision AI, Content IQ by /prompt. can offer insights into content performance.

For GENICOS, embracing the future, when it comes to new technology and best practices that are being used in both the communications and the healthcare industry, means delivering efficiency for clients by incorporating generative AI applications into everyday creative and planning workstreams. 

“We are explorers when it comes to the technology of communications,” says Richard Veal, executive VP, managing director. “We’ve done work that’s involved augmented reality and generative AI. A lot of people worry that generative AI will eventually replace creative thinkers. But we understand that it’s actually a complement to what we do, and if we don’t embrace that, we’re doing a disservice to our clients.”

Veal notes that embracing and integrating such technology – which is in fact not the future anymore, but the present – helps the company offer its clients the efficiency they require and helps them “get to the best ideas faster.”

“We know that AI is most meaningful with human supervision, but we also know that it’s a tool we can’t ignore,” Veal adds.

“When agencies rush to replace human judgment with machine learning, critical thinking from real-life experiences can be lost,” according to managers at REALITYRx, who say its proprietary processes and platforms allowed the agency to not only keep pace with today’s evolving technologies – but to actually get in front of them. “By integrating artificial intelligence, embracing analytics, and enlisting future-proof marketing tools, we clearly and effectively communicated improved healthcare outcomes for clients worldwide.”

Growth and expansion

Of course, 2023 was another year of growth for many of the agencies in this issue, in personnel and business.

2023 marked a third year of what leaders at Category III Agency of the Year Mosaic Group characterize as “unprecedented” success. “We grew from 100-plus employees in 2022 to 135-plus team members in 2023. New and organic growth drove our remarkable results. For the second year in a row, we achieved 20 percent growth, driven by the addition of eight new accounts across four key clients and expansion of existing client assignments.” 

Leaders say Mosaic launched an “incredible” nine brands/indications in 2023, including the Eli Lilly weight loss drug Zepbound. “Our team successfully launched Zepbound to payers, health systems, and employers, helping individuals who suffer from obesity gain access to an effective treatment that can change the trajectory of their health and lives.”

For Real Chemistry, despite a challenging year for both the industry and the agency, it ended 2023 with strong revenue of $595 million, a 7 percent increase over 2022. Acquisitions included Avant Healthcare, a full service medical communications company, and TI Health, a data-driven marketing and predictive analytics company.

DDB Health had a record-setting 2023. The leadership team states that it began with the coming together of two like-minded agencies, DDBH + CDMP, to become one powerhouse organization filled with passionate people.  Fueled by a pitch win rate of 80 percent, nine new clients added, 10 launches, and organic growth of greater than 40 percent, managers say DDB Health emerged with a new vision for the future.

To deal with eight launches in 2023, Neon added 101 new hires across departments, including creative, integrated production, and account management.

Also fueling growth and expansion were acquisitions. For example, Precision Value & Health, acquired UK-based Makara Health, an agency recognized for its scientific rigor and specialized capabilities in learning and development, medical and patient education, PR, and brand promotion.

To strengthen and unify its global footprint and value proposition, The Bloc made a series of strategic acquisitions and partnerships throughout 2023 in the United States and abroad.

The Bloc established itself in Germany through a joint venture with Serviceplan Group, Europe’s biggest independent, owner-managed agency group. The agency acquired thenewway, the largest health communications agency serving the Italian market. The Bloc also acquired X-Ray, the largest full-service health creative agency in Switzerland. To expand its medical communications footprint in the United States they announced a formal partnership with Impact Communication Partners and its sister agency, BioMedCom Partners.

Ardelis Health relaunched, which executives say showcases its exclusive strategic business partnerships.

Our goal is to stay ahead of the curve by foreseeing the trends on the horizon, providing industry insights that can change the landscape for our clients,” says Timmy Garde, chief growth officer. The updated website provides more detailed expertise through highlighting various case studies that include KOL engagement, full-service brand launch support, coalescing stakeholders to improve public health, and market shaping to drive behavioral change.

With revenues surpassing $70 million, AbelsonTaylor Group exceeded its 15 percent growth target for 2023. Reflecting its successful expansion into new areas of healthcare marketing, the company announced the formation of an independent network containing three business units: flagship agency AbelsonTaylor, opportunity agency AT Nutrient, and full-service production studio DOSE. Executives say the new structure accommodates continuous elevation of company offerings and enables the group to fully leverage its skills and take on a broader range of clients and assignments. Along with this evolution came significant transformational and innovative changes in business leadership and creative direction.

Executives maintain that one of AT Group’s most important 2023 expansions was the growth of its Integrated Strategy department, which focused on innovations in two key areas – media and marketing intelligence. The company established a full service, self-managed media agency within AT Group, consolidating its media strategy, planning, and implementation services into what executives characterize as “a sophisticated, high-value offering that gives account teams and clients better control, performance and ROI for their media dollars.”

Calcium+Company (see profile on page 64) expanded to include a variety of mission-
critical divisions: Vitamin MD (medical education); Amino (oncology marketing); PRotein (public relations); and LATAM (global production capabilities). Executives say these different divisions are dynamically supported by service hubs dedicated to Integrated Strategy, Technology, and People+Culture.

According to CEO Judy Capano, “We reached a point in our growth trajectory that allowed us to look beyond our thriving core agency business and deliver other important services with same rigor, creativity, and passion that has always defined us. This is a business of ideas and talent, and we’re now more empowered to deliver the best of these in wider a range of disciplines.”

The vibrancy of Calcium+
Company is also reflected in business results, which, for 2023, were the strongest in the company’s history. Managers add that the “substantive” growth of Vitamin MD was achieved both through organic initiatives and the acquisition of CSG, a leading independent medical education company.

In November 2023, ConcentricLife (see profile on page 65) was acquired by Accenture.  “Collectively, these entities are experts in the field of change – navigating change at a global level, creating brands that thrive at the very center of ever-evolving human health experience – with big end-to-end capabilities available to client partners,” executives state.

“The best part about the Accenture marriage is that the potential is obvious to everyone,” Michael Sanzen, founder and creative lead at ConcentricLife says. “It doesn’t require a lot of explanation. The broader world has already seen the concept with Droga5. Now we can bring that same electric combination to health care.”

Following the receipt of strategic investment from Knox Lane to kick off the year, Spectrum Science (see profile on page 88) went on to increase its active client roster by 20 percent, bolstering work across all areas of expertise, including product and corporate communications, advertising, clinical trial recruitment, and medical communications.

Executives say the acquisition of CrowdPharm and Hot Iron Health in late November 2023 solidified Spectrum’s growing work in promotional engagement and advertising, and formally established the company’s strategic advertising and consulting pillar. Mike Myers, who has worked in the advertising industry for 30 years and founded CrowdPharm in 2017, joined Spectrum’s executive leadership team at the time of the acquisition.

2023 was a “remarkable” year for Deerfield Group (see profile on page 73), according to leaders. Following the 2022 acquisition of Verge Scientific Communications, Deerfield Group LLC was formed “to accurately reflect and house our newly expanded capabilities and expertise.” Executives explain that Verge provides clients, especially early start-ups, a “unique” marketing approach earlier in their brand’s life cycle through public relations and corporate communications. “Throughout last year, we worked diligently to complete the integration of our teams and processes to continue delivering ‘Agency of Brand’-quality work for both our current and future clients.”

Leaders at Humancare say the agency doubled in billings staff, growing to 90 employees. And at McCann Health Managed Markets, managers claim the agency closed out 2023 with record-breaking revenue and 15 percent growth.

In 2023, ProHealth (see profile on page 83) expanded relationships with existing clients by adding 10 new brands to its portfolios, which helped lead to an “incredible” 40 percent revenue growth from the previous year, according to managers. The agency also added 38 new people.

In 2023, Brick City Greenhouse (see profile on page 98) added nine new clients to its existing roster to contribute to a total of 20 brand assignments. This includes two brand launches and one corporate launch.

MedThink experienced “significant” growth, leaders say, adding 23 new clients and 137 new products across its divisions, MedThink SciCom and MedThink Communications.

Science & Purpose (see profile on page 122)  has continued its focus on integrated HCP, DTP, and DTC business, resulting in a new business winning streak and nearly double year-over-year growth for two consecutive years, according to leaders, who add the agency’s roster features nine new brands, including first-in-class solutions across multiple disease states, breakthrough oncology products, as well as relationships with small biotechs to big pharma.

In 2023 YuzuYello (see profile on page 130) formed eight new client partnerships and 15 new brands. “In a year of economic constriction for markets around the world, we grew our revenue by an unprecedented 25 percent,” executives say. As patient support services grew,  YuzuYello increased staff by nearly 20 percent, not counting the launch of an additional team and office in São Paulo, Brazil.