Agency mergers are not easy at the best of times. In the midst of a global pandemic, they have the potential to alienate employees, disintegrate culture and confuse customers.
McCann Health New Jersey looked at the task at hand and said, in essence, do it. By early April 2022, it had not only successfully absorbed the venerable McCann Echo brand, but also navigated its own integration into the new mothership IPG Health.
“Bringing two cultures together in a year like 2021 – how do you do that?” asks Jill Beene, president of McCann Health NJ. “There is no manual.”
The Echo fusion was the trickier of the two. For one, the companies were physically close and did not serve as a store of conflict (neither for McCann Health in the New York area nor for the network). On the other hand, they found themselves in regular competition for talent, resources and customers.
“It didn’t make sense to have two,” says Beene. “But we couldn’t just smash two agencies together. We had to become a new company.
To effect the necessary changes — in process, workflow, philosophy, and everything else — Beene and her leadership team are committed to what she calls “really radical transparency.”
“You think of questions like, ‘How can we work together if our processes are different? How can I count on everyone to support me like I could count on my legacy agency? she explains. “What you do is talk about it. When you get to know yourself, you see yourself in others more than you think.
The creation of IPG Health presented many of the same challenges and solutions, but basically. “What we learned was that we weren’t just a bunch of offices,” continues Beene. “We were actually a group of people who know each other, like each other and work well with each other.”
The results were revealing. Amid the changes, McCann Health New Jersey excelled on the new business front, adding AOR engagements with Novartis, Sandoz, Teva and Janssen; he added seven AOR engagements with Sanofi. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, given the Echo integration, but McCann Health NJ started the year with 212 people under its umbrella and ended with 310. Revenue jumped by 44%, from an estimated $45 million by MM+M in 2020 to an estimated $65 million in 2021.
At the heart of the growth has been a focus on behavior change. It took some investment – social scientists are now part of most agency teams – but it paid off, especially in terms of defining the company’s offer more precisely vis-à-vis – vis-a-vis the competition.
“We had a solid reputation as a citizen,” says Beene. “Bringing these behavior change experiences to our clients has put us in a different position… We don’t just have behavior change; we have the science behind how it works.
As a result, McCann Health New Jersey is in an enviable position: established as an expert in an area of need for most potential customers and with the resources of a superior parent organization at its disposal to get started.
“We’re ready to become the agency we’ve always wanted to be,” says Beene.
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Work from outside the pharmaceutical industry you admire…
Excerpt from the June 01, 2022 issue of MM+M – Medical Marketing and Media