Global Healthcare PR Agencies of the Year 2017 | Holmes Report
Charting the future of public relations

2017 Global Healthcare PR Agencies of the Year

The 2017 Global PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 400 submissions and face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across North America, EMEA and Asia-Pacific.

Analysis of all of the Winners and Finalists across specialist categories can be accessed via the navigation menu to the right or below. Winners were announced at the 2017 Global SABRE Awards, which took place at the PRovoke17 Global PR Summit in Miami on the evening of 25 October.

Winner — GCI Health (Global/WPP)

WPP’s GCI Health unit has been the most consistent performer in the healthcare public relations space over the past five years, distinguished by a balance of stability—Wendy Lund and her management team providing a steady hand on the tiller—and restless innovation that has seen the integration of social media and content creation and a willingness to “break the rules” (in a good way) of traditionally staid healthcare marketing. Growth was a very impressive 21% last year, and the firm now has 150 people globally (with new offices in Philadelphia, Boston and Denver added over the past 12 months). 

The firm’s “Putting Patients at the Center” initiative was launched three years ago and informs almost all of GCI’s work these days, from its work launching new products in areas from oncology to spinal cord injury to the opioid crisis—as well as several rare disease categories—to its expansion in biotech and medical technology.

The GCI Health brand may have launched in London in 2013, but it began life with two significant advantages: it is part of arguably the hottest healthcare firm in the US right now, and the London office essentially spun out of sister agency Cohn & Wolfe, itself an impressive force in healthcare. It has grown at a healthy rate, with a team of 20 consultants delivering impressive work in four categories: life sciences (mostly pharma), consumer health, market access, and—a real differentiator—strategic consulting. — PH 

Finalists

Hanover (EMEA/Independent)

At first glance, one of Europe's best public affairs firms might seem like an odd choice for the healthcare list. But much of Hanover's stellar growth in recent years has been powered by a healthcare policy practice that blends policy, advocacy and government affairs to impressive effect under MD Andrew Harrison, who has been with the firm since 2002. And the healthcare unit grew by an impressive 43% last year, moving increasingly beyond policy and public affairs into communications work, with new business from Mundipharma and Boehringer Ingelheim joining existing clients such as Lilly and Shire.

Indeed Hanover's approach to healthcare is consistently grown-up, illustrated by its ability to secure a major healthcare technology assessment reform assignment ahead of McKinsey and Deloitte. The launch of a market access practice involved work for Lilly's Alzheimer's drug, and reflected an ability to navigate an increasingly complex European healthcare landscape. And much of Hanover's healthcare work is led by Brussels office, as demonstrated a big-budget campaign to persuade EU and national policymakers of the possibility to eliminate Hepatitis C in Europe, leading to the European Commission’s decision to invest €1m in a new project to improve early diagnosis rates of viral hepatitis. — AS

SPAG Asia (India/Independent)

Launched just four years ago, SPAG has already established itself as an industry game changer in the Asia-Pacific market as a cross between a public affairs and healthcare shop with three distinct brands: SPAG Asia, D Yellow Elephant and Giga Health (which was acquired in 2016). The group has grown more than 100% year-over-year since its 2013 launch while still keeping headcount low with the philosophy that one right individual is worth more than 10 others. The team works on clients that include PhRMA, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, US Chamber of Commerce, Hilleman Laboratories, Intertek, ResMed in addition new clients include AdvaMed, Novartis, Cipla, Dr. Reddy Laboratory Abbott, Boston Scientific, Abbott Vascular, Biocon and Pfizer Nestle. The firm holds the unique positioning of never yet losing a client.

Its work has garnered SPAG recognition as the Holmes Report’s New Agency of the Year in the region two years ago, in addition to multiple SABRE Awards for work with clients like PFCD and US Chamber of Commerce. — AaS 

Spectrum (US/Independent)

Leadership changes have derailed many PR firms, but Spectrum continues to demonstrate how well-executed transitions can make an agency stronger than it has ever been. Spectrum (last year’s healthcare agency winner) had another stellar year with 34% growth, reaching $20m in revenues in its 20th year in business.

New CEO Jonathan Wilson is constantly evolving the firm by building teams that reflect the style and speed of the five main business areas the agency serves: biopharma, biotech, consumer science, healthtech (new in 2016) and public affairs (new in 2016). Spectrum’s Lab –its digital, creative and social capabilities — cuts across all sectors.

Eighty-five employees work across offices in Washington DC (HQ), New York, Atlanta and Chicago (new in 2016). Clients include Astellas, Medtronic/Covidien, Roche, Zafgen, 23andMe (new), AdvaMed (new) and Dermira (new), among others.

The agency’s work with Astellas Oncology C3 Prize won an Innovation SABRE Award for pulling together a dynamic multi-channel campaign that engaged influencers and produced strong web analytics. — AaS 

Virgo Health (Global/Golin)

Now in its 13th year, and fourth since it was acquired by Interpublic Group agency Golin, Virgo Health has successfully managed the transition to new ownership and management with aplomb, retaining its spot as one of Europe's top healthcare agencies. The firm grew around 4% to $11m in 2016, despite a challenging marketplace that involved fewer blockbuster drugs and a reduction in big-budget retainers. Organic growth of 26% pointed to Virgo's continued ability to diversify its services for such clients as Novartis, Roche and Abbvie, supplemented by new business from Ipsen and Santen.

That has involved considerable investment in digital and content, with Virgo's in-house Pharmacy creative hub particularly busy, bolstered by the appointment of Paul Andrews as head of design and Nicole Burns as senior social strategist. A new innovation hub called Egg includes two proprietary white-label products, one focused on collaboration, workspace & ideation technology, and the other a platform for clinical trial efficiencies, reflecting Virgo's continued ability to change with the times. And Sue Neilsen arrived as head of communications to help refocus Virgo's corporate unit.

All of that helped drive some impressive campaign work, including a major employee engagement effort for Roche; getting men aged 60+ to talk to their GP about atrial fibrillation for Bayer; and getting RB onto the Lions Health 2016 agenda via and innovation challenge to solve the devastating effects of air pollution in India. In line with its 'Being Human' positioning, furthemore, Virgo's workplace culture remains a notch above most of its rivals. —  AS