Klick Health, one the world’s largest independent health agency networks, with more than $500 million in revenues last year, is making good on its promise at Cannes one year ago to break out globally, establishing a new Asia-Pacific hub in Singapore.
Global expansion for Klick, which announced regional hubs in EMEA and LATAM with global client support last November, is being driven at the behest of multinational clients, CEO Lori Grant tells Campaign, “who ask us to scale our magic.”
Its regional entry poses a challenge to many of the health divisions of the marketing holding company majors like IPG Health, Ogilvy Health, Havas, Digitas and others, but also to independent health specialist networks like SPAG or Syneos Health.
Led by Mitchell Tan, former managing partner of Ogilvy Singapore and past VP of DDB Asia, Klick’s APAC executive will be augmented by three other members of its leadership team. Shraddha Tawate, who started at McCann Health before serving in senior health marketing roles at agencies Medulla Communications in India, then at W6 and Pixacore in Singapore, will serve as SVP of global strategy enablement and brand strategy. Nevil Chimon, who has 20 years of experience in drug discovery, development and commercialisation, largely in Singapore, including serving as CEO of SRP-Radlink at Fortis Healthcare, will become Klick’s regulatory and science director in APAC. Finally, Alvin Yeo, a senior creative who has worked at major agencies like McCann, Ogilvy, Y&R, TBWA and independents like Iceberg Group and Possible in Shanghai and Singapore, joins as executive creative director and SVP.
With Singapore forming the operational hub, Tan says they’ve identified roughly 25 specialists to support the business across the region. As promised in Cannes last year, a Tokyo office will be a “fast-follow” according to Klick co-president Ari Schaefer, to be announced once their 'gravitational hires’ like the APAC leadership team are in place.
Klick doesn’t divulge client names, but much of the work APAC will initially be driven by multinationals from abroad as the team builds out its regional client base from Singapore. Japan, Korea, China and India are all markets where Klick sees longer-term opportunities alongside any market where client growth needs are.
“Asia-Pacific is a massive component of multinational pharmaceutical or life sciences product launches, which is why we’re really excited about having more presence in the region,” Schaefer tells Campaign. “It gives us a lot of credibility and capabilities needed for international launches in a fully-integrated way.”
Tan says both global and regional clients are ramping up activities and pilot projects in Southeast Asia and markets like Korea, predicting strong growth opportunities over the next five years.
One of the challenges in the region will be dealing with the evolving regulatory requirements between the many markets across Asia-Pacific. Tan sees this as more impetus to have teams on the ground in Asia who can also work with Klick’s larger regulatory and go-to-market expert teams.
Tawate tells Campaign she sees many “trailblazing” opportunities to challenge the status quo for outreach across Asia provided that clients are given tools and guidance to be confident enough to experiment.
“For example, when it comes to influencer marketing in [Asia] there's a lot of opportunity to really drive advocacy, conversations and educate consumers, but clients are usually a little skeptical,” Tawate says. “Because how do you control these conversations? Klick has a comment moderator as a proprietary tool, so it’s a way in which we can push the envelope and bring innovations to this market but at same time be very cognizant of what can be said and what cannot be.”
More of Klick’s innovations can be seen in some of its creative work submitted to Cannes Lions this year. Life Saving Radio for NextMed Health, for instance, uses AI to generate music song lists for surgeons depending on the operations they perform, following an initial discovery that playing AC/DC in the operating theatre tended to enhance surgical performance.
Another contender, The Bridge, is a tear-jerking animated short film dealing with mental health about a lonely New Yorker with suicidal thoughts who develops a bond with a dog dealing with rejection.
“Health is seen as mainstream now,” Yeo tells Campaign. “We will be recognised a lot more in award shows in the next few years and will craft our own landscape as we show how we can make a difference within traditional advertising and for healthcare.”
Grant sees Klick’s innovative spirit stemming somewhat from its special culture. She cites its purely organic growth from the ground up as evidence of its “entrepreneurial spirit” and “hacker roots.”
Founded in 1997 with its main offices in Toronto and New York, Klick has been one of the fastest-growing independent health agency networks, consistently growing revenue by double digits annually to rank at the top of Medical Marketing + Media’s (MM+M)’s North American Agency 100 list for the last five years.
Klick differentiates itself in a few ways, including through its single global P&L, evidence that the agency is “authentic" about integrating its operations so it can be solely focused on client outcomes while removing any friction between regions.
But first and foremost, Grant emphasises that Klick is a pure-play health and medical practice. “We don't have anyone working on a car, a beer, or anything consumer-related in the morning who in the afternoon is working on oncology,” she says. “We are solely health focused.”