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The Pulse of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Future of Agencies

Written by: | | Dated: Thursday, May 23rd, 2019


By Natalie McDonald, founder and CEO of Create NYC, an innovative on-demand agency servicing the ever-changing healthcare industry. Create NYC is part of Ashfield Healthcare Communications.


The healthcare industry is craving a disruption from the norm in the communications sector.

There hasn’t been a new agency model introduced for decades and as a result the traditional agency has prevailed in the absence of innovation and more flexible and efficient offerings.

Drug manufacturers now have less time to conceive and implement campaigns given the evolution of promotion across increasingly complex channels that necessitate a continuous flow of content. Hinging on traditional agency timelines is no longer an option.

To date there’s been a void in the healthcare industry and there’s a need for agencies to become more efficient and cost-effective to reflect these new challenges. Healthcare agencies can solve this challenge by further decoupling the creative and production process to introduce more innovative models that shift incentives to deliver high quality deliverables that are on time and in budget.

A shift from the norm

The evolution of marketing and promotion across increasingly complex channels including digital necessitates a continuous flow of content and the life sciences sector is no exception. Today, drug manufacturers have less time to conceive and implement campaigns than ever, the squeeze isn’t relenting and relying on traditional agency timelines is no longer an option.

The rigid, traditional agency model underpinned by a financial structure that charges for time and materials has come up short in an environment where more flexible, efficient offerings are required.

Many clients are also increasingly skeptical of the value they’re getting from some traditional agencies. Often, they pay huge bills for basic foundational and derivative tactics driven by the hourly model and scope increases that are commonplace. With some traditional agencies, there is little accountability and no transparency. At the same time, better analytics and reporting tools are creating a new savviness among marketers who are increasingly aware and demanding of better returns on their investments.

Working with fixed-fee models that decouple strategy and campaign creation from the execution of tactics can help to guarantee in budget and on-time deliverables.

Niche agencies that have introduced this model, such as Create NYC, flex to complement traditional agency work by offering on-demand, efficient, and focused support to execute healthcare tactics.

M&A and disrupting traditional agency models

More traditional agencies will not be replaced—they will still play a vital role—however, the introduction of more modern approaches to healthcare agencies will break the traditional advertising mold. These new agency models will answer an unmet need in the ever-changing healthcare industry.

The challenge for merged agencies will be to figure out how they combine the capabilities and expertise of established organizations with more dynamic, disruptive agencies to create efficiency and make better use of client budgets.

Use of a conventional agency of record partner for end to end creative development and production services is often done out of tradition or convenience. Rethinking the content supply chain allows for the introduction of more efficient model and partner options to execute derivative, adaptive, and translated content across customers and channels.

This shift invites disruptive agencies like Create NYC to efficiently execute tactics. It’s also one of the major catalysts for M&A activity in the healthcare comms sector as heritage agencies look to diversify their service portfolio and introduce the necessary flexibility by partnering with dynamic, often niche healthcare marketing businesses. 

The impact on the healthcare industry

The shift to more dynamic and fluid models will cause a sea change in healthcare marketing and we’ll see a mini-revolution over the next few years as clients begin to hire in a different way. Strategically merged agencies will gain competitive advantages by blending traditional with new.

More importantly, infusing disruptive agency models throughout a brand’s life cycle will create additional value for businesses throughout the healthcare industry by delivering more tactics at cheaper pricing.

Clients are looking for more flexibility, on-demand, and seasonal projects. For agencies, being able to scale with a client over a brand’s life cycle is as important as is being able to work at a department, campaign, or brand level.

If I use Create NYC as an example, we focus entirely on flat-fee execution of healthcare advertising only. We’re very niche, very targeted, and use a crowd-sourced Creator Hub of talent to staff each project by experience, relevance, and expertise. This purpose-built model offers scalability, speed, and efficiency, all while cutting timelines in half and reducing costs. It’s a simple and compelling proposition.



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