Med Ad News caught up with Fingerpaint Partner Bill McEllen; Colleen Carter, head of corporate marketing and business development at Fingerpaint; and Splice Co-Founder Paul Hagopian. The West Coast healthcare advertising agency Splice was acquired and will be fully integrated within the full-service health and wellness marketing firm Fingerpaint under the name Fingerpaint Bay Area. They talk about the acquisition and what it means to new employees and current clients.
Med Ad News: What exactly brought Fingerpaint’s attention to Splice?
Bill McEllen: It’s a relatively small industry, and reputation is exceedingly important in everything that we do. And when you see an organization like Splice, and Paul and the leadership team, and you look and you go, “Wow, they’re a lot like we are” – same cultural base, same foundation of doing great work – it was a natural fit for what we wanted to do to expand our presence on the on the West Coast. We had the Phoenix office, we have the 1798 office, and to add the entire Splice team, we couldn’t be happier.
Cultural alignment is really important. When you think about any team-based activity, that idea that everybody’s on the same page, and that one and one equals three or more. So you take you take cultural alignment, you take already great work and great clients, and you take it in an area where we don’t have an offering, it there was a no-brainer.
Med Ad News: Paul, you’ve built up an independent brand, what drove the decision to join Fingerpaint?
Paul Hagopian: There’s two parts to it. One, as, as we started growing up, and started competing against a lot of other agencies, Fingerpaint and the Fingerpaint organization had a lot of the capabilities and services that we needed to complement our team. And that’s important when we’re delivering great work for clients, right? Before we kind of had to kind of beg, borrow, and steal, and be able to leverage relationships to get favors. But now, as part of the Fingerpaint family, we can really be able to provide first-class service.
And as an entrepreneur, who really loves my people – they are amazing people – that’s a lot of responsibility. You get to this place where you’re like, my teams, my families, deserve more. As a small-time entrepreneur, there’s only so many things that I could deliver. Simple things like a 401k, and better healthcare.
[Looking at being acquired] is kind of like dating, right? You’re like, “I think I want to be with this person.” But you never really, really know. But I remember the day that we closed [with Fingerpaint], and like, literally the next morning, I got an email from Ed Mitzen, and I was hoping that this guy stacks up to who he is. And he writes me an email that was like, basically, in only Ed’s way of doing it. He’s like, our staff deserves the best. And a lot of them live their lives encumbered by student loans. And he said, “I want to find out who has student loans in the organization, because I am going to personally see what I could do about it.”
I told my wife, who’s also kind of in the business, and I asked, “What do you think about this?” She’s like, “That’s incredible.” So literally last Thursday, Ed and his wife, Lisa so generously made an announcement that they were going to pay every single employee, tax-free, $30,000 to go against their student loans. I literally I kid you not, I had two employees call me that were in their young 20s. Crying, like speechless, “I thought we had to live with this student loan. Thank you so much.” … And I think for my, for my staff, they could not be any more pumped. And when I spoke with our clients, that couldn’t be any more excited already … It’s just this is like, I never in my wildest dreams could have wished for something as positive as this for my people.
Med Ad News: Colleen, what are your thoughts about integrating the Splice family into the Fingerpaint family?
Colleen Carter: As Paul said, and Bill alluded to, the wonderful thing about the Splice capabilities is that they mirror us so beautifully. So we’re both excited about being able to take the best of what we do, and do it even better together. Fingerpaint does have additional capabilities that what we’re now calling now Fingerpaint Bay Area did not have. And so I know that Paul is excited to introduce those capabilities to his current clients, like managed care, like branding, early-stage commercialization, clinical branding, the integration.
This is the third acquisition for Fingerpaint (1798 and Leaderboard Branding) and we have a process in place right now to make sure that new companies, new Fingerpainters, feel part of Fingerpaint within two weeks of joining us. So we’ve already got meetings scheduled on the books about integrating the teams.
Bill McEllen: We’re building something special here. And it’s great to be able to add the likes of Paul and his team. The more you know, the more interaction the teams have, the better it even feels.
Med Ad News: You already had the company-wide meeting and discussed the integration of Fingerpaint Bay Area in general. So what’s next?
Paul Hagopian: For us on the Bay Area side, we have clients to continue to support even better with what we got. And, you know, we’ve always had one mission at the agency on our end, which was to be the best on the West Coast. And there was a while where we were were probably the best independent, small agency on the West Coast. Well, now we just got an upgrade. So our dreams got a little bit bigger, to be looking forward to dominating the West Coast market, and really supporting our clients and the patients that they serve.
Colleen Carter: I love that I can call on current clients and introduce them to [Splice’s} capabilities, and being able to level up the services that we can provide is a priority. But back to people first, with every acquisition, what we’ve been able to show our employees is that this represents opportunity for them as well. Either opportunities to grow or opportunities to learn more about how to better serve our clients. And in the end, the culture of Fingerpaint, where it is people first, acquisition means opportunity.
Bill McEllen: Onward and upward is really the headline there. As we think about building something special, we want this to be the place where the best people come to do their best work. We do that by relentlessly protecting what makes us special, and who we are and our culture. And it allows us to attract those people. And it allows us to attract the clients that are going to help us really do good.