Medical marketing agencies love to talk about what makes them unique, but, generally speaking, the company is full of compliance. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, they’re called “best practices” for a reason, and it makes sense to learn from your peers.
In this context, an agency like Merge stands out. For one, it has an extensive list of clients outside of the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry, including companies in the banking, food and retail sectors. They perfectly complement the agency’s extensive healthcare business, which counts Abbott, GE Healthcare and Cardinal Health as mainstays on the list. Last year, Merge added to the list of engagements with Biogen, Astellas, Acella Pharmaceuticals, Elevar Therapeutics and TransCelerate BioPharma.
Another notable difference is the organizational structure. Merge has benefited from strong private equity backing, allowing it to grow rapidly through acquisition. In 2020 it picked up Sandbox and last summer it added Blue Moon Digital and Perkuto.
Merge’s numbers jumped with the additions. Over a two-year period, the number of people working in health-related activities increased from 282 to 737, while incomes increased from $42.3 million in 2019 to $121.2 million in 2020 to $144 million in 2021.
That’s why CEO Patrick Venetucci believes Merge represents a new generation of medical marketing agencies.
“In the 80s and 90s, the holding structure changed the whole landscape of all these independent companies by bringing them together,” he explains. “Now the private equity is coming in and reshaping the industry again.”
The result for agencies on the right side of this trend is not only more clients and people, but also the ability to add new offerings quickly. Merge’s acquisition strategy targeted agencies with specialized expertise, particularly in technology. Bringing them in-house gives Merge a wider range of overnight practices.
For example, Blue Moon Digital’s expertise in performance marketing has increased Merge’s ability to perform targeted email and research. “We now send around 2 billion emails per month,” says Venetucci.
The tech installation is all the more important in a world disrupted by COVID-19, which has precipitated a digital transformation in communications and storytelling. Even with the doors reopening to vendors, Venetucci says healthcare providers have come to richer, more immersive materials than before.
He cites a tablet experiment that Merge created for B. Braun Medical’s IV bags, which replaced paper leaflets. “We literally put the story in the hands of the sales rep,” says Venetucci.
He adds that the industry should expect more of the same from Merge: additional acquisitions are on the horizon and the number of employees will likely exceed 1,000 this year. At this point, Merge essentially has a codified playbook for integration.
“The easiest part is all the cogs in the back office. The hardest thing is the people and the culture,” adds Venetucci. “We spend a lot of time and due diligence working through all of these things and making sure there’s a real, genuine fit. You can’t force it, but you can co-create it.
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Work from outside the pharmaceutical industry you admire…
TikTok’s hand gesture is a simple product demonstration that breaks the rules. There is no copy of the product. There is no gratuitous use of product adjectives. The script never screams new or now. Instead, it brings the product and product benefits to life in a simple, captivating, and memorable way. The story – a TikTok gone viral – is the benefit, and it’s charming and emotional. Even in today’s six-second mobile-centric world, it’s still essential for great creative work. — Venetucci
Excerpt from the June 01, 2022 issue of MM+M – Medical Marketing and Media