Med Ad News talked with Ed Mitzen, founder of Fingerpaint, and Brannon Cashion, a managing partner at Leaderboard Branding, about the reasons why the agency decided to make a strategic investment in Leaderboard, a global naming and branding business headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. Mitzen and Cashion discussed how the two companies complement each other and how the connection with Leaderboard will expand the services Fingerpaint can offer clients.

Med Ad News: How did this strategic investment come about and what is it going to do for Fingerpaint?

Ed Mitzen

Ed Mitzen: Brannon and I have known each other for a long time, we crossed paths in a prior life. And we were impressed with the work that the Leaderboard team does, they’re really best in class. But the nice thing is, from our standpoint, we wanted to work with a company that gets earlier into the life cycle than we do. They do exceptional work, and they have a great culture, that’s a big thing with us. Brannnon and Andy and Vince have built a great team. We spent three or four months getting to know one another and our businesses, since I knew Brannon, but I didn’t know the other guys that well.

And you know that we’re always looking to add capabilities and skillsets that we don’t currently have, that add more value in what we bring to clients. This was much like when we did the 1798 deal back in February of last year, we wanted to find companies that we feel do phenomenal work and are really great people.  This is a great way to continue to grow the Fingerpaint story and we’re really excited to make it happen.

Brannon Cashion

Brannon Cashion: We’ve seen a really rapid adoption of our services by our clients. We’ve been in this space for a long time as individuals, but really our team came together about four years ago. And it’s been a really fast and exciting growth period. And you kind of get to that point where you look at your business and say, “OK, we can continue on this path, but can we grow faster if we find a like-minded group who can help us build out other capabilities, expand potentially geographically, and also not interrupt the same kind of cultural importance than we have?” We are really about our people, and making sure we’ve got an environment that identifies partnerships and working with our colleagues in a way that makes them feel important every single time.

It was really a hand-in-glove type of opportunity when Ed and I started talking about what the future could look like together.

Ed Mitzen: And over the last year or two, we had referred business to one another, so we got to know each other and know our capabilities, and have seen the work both of us have been doing. We’ve had a good relationship with them for a long time.

Med Ad News: What are the next steps that you’re taking, in working together and getting clients to take advantage of the expanded services that you are now offering?

Ed Mitzen: I was able to fly down to Charlotte two weeks ago, and took some of our senior folks there. We were able to meet their whole company, they all got together in their office and socially distanced, we all had masks on. It was like a kind of homecoming for them because a lot of them had not been back in the office for over a year. But we were able to spend the day with them and sort of share capabilities, share our philosophies. And now comes the integration part, and it’s a lot of the block and tackle, a lot of the benefits stuff, payroll, all that kind of stuff.

But that’s sort of the easy part, the more exciting part is to be able to share externally with our clients. Both of our teams know what we’re doing, but we’re excited to really train our teams on what one another does, so that they could be on the lookout for opportunities for one another. We’ve had a lot of clients in the past who have asked for the type of work that Leaderboard does, so it’s nice to be able to have that answer. Much like we did the market access deal with 1798, we were getting a lot of requests for that kind of work, but we didn’t have an answer for that internally, and you get to the point where you’re like, “Gosh it would be really great if we could support our clients with an internal solution.”

We’re trying to be very strategic and thoughtful in terms of how we grow and how we add on capabilities. It’s not like we’re chasing revenue, our base business has been growing 65, 70 percent. It’s more about just being able to deliver more to clients and to be more of a complete solution to them.

Brannon Cashion: One of the things that Ed said that stuck with me, it’s the complementary nature of what we do. There is almost nothing that we overlap on. And that’s what we saw as an opportunity to serve clients better – the best-in-class services we provide, and the best-in-class services that Fingerpaint provides. But more importantly when the timing is right, and when the situation is right, there’s almost like this natural handoff between the type of work that we do – we work with clients as early as Phase I, where we’re doing the non-proprietary naming and some of the scientific lexicon work – and get to the point that we say that now you need a larger suite of services that a more full-service agency can provide. So it’s really, there’s a nice, logical fit between where we do our work and where a traditional company like Fingerpaint begins their work.  

Ed Mitzen: And you know [healthcare advertising and marketing] is a relationship business. Brannon and his team are in there in Phase I and Phase II working with the commercial teams that are just starting to get put together. They may have needs on clinical trial marketing work, they may be starting to think about what’s their contracting pricing and go-to-market strategy. They may not have the full teams developed yet, but our ability to go in there and help them along that journey, it’s a nice opportunity for us and for them.

Med Ad News: Would that mean Fingerpaint would be coming in earlier on certain accounts than it would have normally?

Brannon Cashion and Ed Mitzen

Ed Mitzen: Potentially, yes. It would certainly vary from client to client, and what their needs are. But the beautiful thing in that – and I have seen where it hasn’t worked well – is when you’ve got two companies who have come together who both do really solid work, and you get to know them as people, and there’s a relationship there and a trust where you’re referring business back and forth, because nobody wants to let a client down. Our ability to join forces is just a wonderful complement to what we do. It’s exciting.

Brannon Cashion: I love the idea of working with our clients, and then not having to stop – meaning we get to a point where the services we provide, we’re able to be a resource for them … I think that’s really exciting, because there’s a natural point where we stop serving clients and more support them as they are working towards the submission of an NDA or a BLA.

For 25 years, I’ve been helping clients segue from early commercial activities like naming, and a lot of times, some of our early creative briefs are shared with an agency, and the agency is told, “Start doing your thinking off of this.” This partnership provides that continuity, it’s not just about handing off, it’s about working with and transitioning to this next suite of services that each application needs.

Ed Mitzen: And the thing that we loved, as we looked for potential partners, Brannon has data to support the work that they do. They have a higher approval rate at the FDA, so they’re speeding up the commercial time to market. There’s just a lot of things that they do, and you don’t realize the level of detail to this work, if you’re outside of the industry. You may think, “Oh, they’re just sitting around, blank-boarding names.” But then they have to do linguistic studies and the handwriting analysis [to determine if a potential drug name could be easily mixed up by prescribers and pharmacists], and all the trademark work, and global branding to make sure [the potential drug name] will work around the world. Brannon has 25 years of experience and a senior team who are really good at what they do, and that was important to us.