2016 Annual Report: Healthcare Communications Agencies Overview – In Good Health

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Long-established healthcare communications agencies in 2015 saw their businesses expand, and relative newcomers continued to find their stride.


For many of the healthcare advertising agencies profiled in this issue, 2015 marked continued growth and opportunities. And the changes have continued in 2016, as several agencies reorganized themselves, underwent name changes, and expanded their services.

One of the most recent changes, announced in April as this issue was going to press, was the creation of TBWA\WorldHealth, which was “refounded” by parent Omnicom Health Group by bringing together the former CAHG/Corbett and LLNS, along with TBWA global healthcare offices, under the TBWA\WorldHealth brand. Its executives say these agencies will comprise an industry powerhouse linked by the common culture of TBWA and powered by Disruption, TBWA’s proprietary creative engine.

The agency will have full-service offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Irvine, California to complement existing TBWA\WorldHealth offices in London, Paris, Hamburg, Istanbul, and Mexico City.  

“Healthcare is undergoing monumental transformation – growing, globalizing and becoming more personalized. In order to meet these challenges, TBWA\WorldHealth is now full service and fully integrated, with deep expertise across multiple disciplines and therapeutic categories,” says Sharon Callahan, the recently named CEO of TBWA\WorldHealth.  

Back in March 2015, parent Interpublic Group decided to take the ICC Lowe Healthcare agencies – ICC, Trio, and Pace – and fold them into the FCB Healthcare network.  

Less than a year after assuming control of the two agencies in the realignment, FCB Health merged ICC and Pace into their newest entity, which was recently rebranded as FCBCURE, an FCB Health network company. “It was time to bring these two great shops together and rebrand the new agency offering as FCBCURE, as in the cure for whatever ails you,” says FCB Health CEO Dana Maiman. “2015 was the birth year for this union, which is the embodiment of a new and modern way of operating for clients seeking more innovative and nontraditional solutions. It is a place that drives smarter strategic thinking, inspired visual solutions, and brand-centric collaboration.”

After being acquired by Precision Medicine Group in May 2015, LehmanMillet has become precisioneffect.

Another agency transformed by its network parent was the former RCW McCann, which in 2015 became McCann Healthcare. According to executives, the change heralds the completion of a process that began with the agency’s move to the McCann Worldgroup headquarters in 2014. Executives say the name change speaks to a newfound stability as the agency now sits firmly within the McCann Health network while maintaining the independent spirit that has been its calling card since its founding in 1997. As McCann Healthcare President Susan Duffy put it, “In 2014 we committed to more fully integrate with McCann. The name change signifies the end of that transition, but also enables us to look ahead to new changes as our evolution continues.”

The change for McCann Healthcare reflected change from parent McCann Health. In December 2015, Amar Urhekar, president, McCann Health Americas, made his biggest strategic move since taking the helm in 2014, by uniting McCann Health’s North American offices and a staff of more than 600 healthcare professionals from five companies under one McCann Health banner.

According to executives, with this move, Urhekar brought together the network’s best-in-class competencies in North America to create one integrated McCann Health offering to provide clients with a more seamless integrated network, unparalleled resources and the highest level of talent.

The offices that came together under McCann Health North America, each retaining their individual agency names but adding the moniker, “A McCann Health Company” include: McCann Echo, McCann Torre Lazur, McCann Pharmacy Initiative, McCann Managed Markets and McCann Healthcare.

Interpublic and McCann were not the only networks making realignment changes. In February of this year, network Omnicom formed Omnicom Health Group to align its portfolio of individual healthcare brands by clients’ customer segments across four key disciplines. The four disciplines in the healthcare portfolio are: professional – general agencies targeting healthcare professionals; patient – digitally based patient and relationship communications and marketing; payer – agencies working with institutional customers, focusing on access and reimbursement communication; and medical, evidence and regulatory – agencies specializing in scientific communications, research and medical education. Ed Wise, formerly chairman and CEO of The CDM Group, became CEO of the new Omnicom Health Group. Joshua Prince, former president of the CDM Group, is chief marketing officer. Callahan of TBWA\WorldHealth is chief client officer.

Omnicom Health Group’s professional agencies are Harrison and Star, CDM New York, AgencyRx, Biolumina, Flashpoint Medica, TBWA\WorldHealth, the Targis Group, and Wild Type.

The primary patient and relationship agency is CDMiConnect.

The institutional agencies are Adelphi Real World Value & Outcomes and Entrée Health, which both focus on institutional access, reimbursement and pricing.

The two firms within the medical, evidence, and regulatory discipline are the Adelphi Group and Healthcare Consultancy Group.
Also in February of this year, GA Communication Group announced it had become Sandbox, the founding agency partner and architect of a unique new entity.

The four founding members of Sandbox are GA, with its offices in Chicago and Los Angeles; McCormick Company, with offices in Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Des Moines, Iowa; Manhattan-based Underline Communications; and Canadian firm One Advertising, with headquarters in Toronto.

Several agencies in this issue sought to expand their offerings in 2015 and so far in 2016.

Category 1 Agency of the Year Intouch Solutions at the end of March announced a new client service offering, Intouch Market Access. Based out of Intouch’s New York office, the new market access practice is embedded across all Intouch locations and services. The establishment of the new discipline coincides with the hire of Peter Weissberg as group director of Intouch Market Access. Weissberg’s primary responsibilities are to help Intouch’s life science clients successfully navigate and address these challenges.

“Healthcare delivery has fundamentally changed and keeps changing, and so have the influencers who drive the change. Peter is incredibly knowledgeable and experienced in this dynamic arena,” says Faruk Capan, CEO of Intouch Solutions. “Our client-centric mindset – understanding the needs of our clients and their customers – is at the heart of who we are. Intouch Market Access is a natural evolution of that mission. Peter provides the expertise to help our clients address the new and future realities of market access across all phases of product commercialization.”

In 2015, Category 2 Agency of the Year winner Concentric expanded its innovative research offering, Concentric Health Intelligence, which is now used by nearly all clients, agency executives say. “Concentric Health Intelligence provides a 360-degree immersion process that leverages a wide variety of traditional and nontraditional methodologies to mine insights from all stakeholder audiences, including patient, payer, and physician,” executives say. “Insights gleaned are then used as a foundation for integrated channel strategies that lead to more effective and more substantive engagement with desired audiences.”

The agency hired Ed Cowen, formerly of Medicus, to run Concentric Health Intelligence.

Internally, PulseCX created a new Customer Experience (CX) Leadership Team to elevate the employee experience and sustain/grow a culture of accountability (operationally/emotionally) through departmental integration, collaboration, leadership, and planning. Executives say this new team “is elevating the management and leadership capabilities of all employees and establishing a new agency model that’s consistent with our clients’ needs and our company philosophy.”

One agency made the break away from its network in 2015. In December 2015, CEO Steven Michaelson (former Wishbone founder) and Chief Strategy Officer Judy Capano (former Wishbone partner/owner) finalized the purchase of Calcium and its assets from The Star Group. Since August 2015, both Michaelson and Capano, along with Managing Partners Steve Hamburg (chief creative officer and former Wishbone partner) and Garth McCallum-Keeler (general manager) have been in control of the agency.

Though not a realignment or a name change or becoming independent once again, Palio in 2016 announced a historic event – the closing of its founding office in Saratoga, N.Y., by the end of June. Palio has consolidated into its New York City headquarters, which were established in 2015 and allow the agency to more closely work with sister inVentiv Health agencies, executives say.

Some agencies experienced changes in leadership. At Dudnyk, Christopher Tobias, Ph.D., a 12-year veteran of the agency, became its president. After years of leading science, new business, and business planning and client relations, executives say Dr.

Tobias has provided immeasurable benefit over the years to the agency and its clients and was a natural fit in his new role.

Firing up ideas with SXSW and MUSE

The expansion and importance of digital work was highlighted by how many healthcare agencies attended and presented at SXSW in 2015 and 2016.

Three independent agencies – HCB Health, AbelsonTaylor, and JUICE Pharma Worldwide conducted at three-day hackathon at SXSW in 2016, in conjunction with MIT Hacking Medicine. The session was intended to unlock innovative thinking in healthcare, and by the presenters’ accounts, it did (for more details, please read “The X Factor at SXSW”).

The hackathon, the goals of which were to come up with real-world solutions for patients, netted the three agencies a joint Heart Award from Med Ad News for this year.

TBWA\WorldHealth was a featured presenter at 2015’s SXSW, with a panel on “Gaming Hospitals For High Quality Patient Care.” Executives say the talk was well-received and will be built upon in a new talk on the potential of gamification in healthcare at an upcoming DTC Perspectives event in San Diego.

In 2016, Intouch Solutions had a team of people at SXSW, writing about their experiences at the #sxswdistilled blog (http://sxswdistilled.com/blog).

GSW also had a cadre of people at SXSW, blogging about what they saw at its Health Experience Project blog.

James Driscoll, senior VP, director, user engagement, at Radius HX, a division of Concentric Health Experience, shared his observations with Med Ad News of where tech trends in healthcare are headed (for more details, please see “Looking Ahead After SXSW”).

One agency has forged ahead in creating its own tech-centered, futurist events geared toward a healthcare/pharma audience. Klick Health in 2015 launched MUSE, a series of events to “inspire the industry, share ideas, and connect new dots to generate exciting new possibilities in health,” executives say. Over the course of the year, MUSE attendees in Boston, Chicago, New York,Philadelphia, and Toronto heard from speakers such as Boston Marathon bombing survivor Adrianne Haslet-Davis and teen cancer researcher Jack Andraka. Agency leaders claim that attendance grew by 400 percent by the third event. With MUSE, Klick was the winner of the Best Self-Promotion 2016 Manny Award. The MUSE series continues on during 2016.

In 2015, Klick partnered with the Biotechnology Industry Organization, Google, and Veeva Systems to produce the Klick Ideas Exchange, which explored the future of healthcare with more than 160 leading biopharma CEOs. The lineup of presenters included President Bill Clinton, Dr. Eric Topol, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, and Dr. Daniel Kraft.

Based on the success of MUSE and the Klick Ideas Exchange (including requests from clients to produce their events), Klick executives say they are looking at expanding the agency’s services into experiential and event marketing.