CMI/Compas taps new data chief amid hiring streak driven by demand for data-based marketing

CMI/Compas business promoted Paul Kallukaran to head data analytics and insights as new hiring and business wins grow. (Alpha Stock Images)

Pharma and healthcare agency CMI/Compas is on a promotions and hiring tear—and that includes a new data chief. Paul Kallukaran was promoted to chief analytics and insights officer from within the company, one the agency’s 83 promotions in the first half this year.

As for hires, 51 people were added to the firm—whose ranks now number about 700—in September alone. That’s because business is booming in the digital and data analytics marketing that CMI/Compas is known for.

Kallukaran is reviewing three times the typical number of requests for proposal, for both new business and expanded work. One particular group interested in data-driven marketing is Big Pharma companies looking at new ways to reach patients and physicians, he said.

“One question we keep getting asked—and we’ve built models to address it—is, ‘I have $100 million to spend. How much of that should I be spending on DTC and how much should I be spending on HCP, and what’s that mix?'” he said.

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Those kinds of questions around integration—now posed by pharma DTC marketing and physician marketing groups working together—along with media channel choices and targeting are signs of the changing business.

While COVID-19 forced marketing to move from sales reps to digital, the latter channel is expected to continue to gain traction even after the pandemic subsides. A lot has changed since Kallukaran joined CMI/Compas four years ago after spending 15 years at Merck, where digital marketing at the time was considered an experiment.

“When I was at Merck a few years ago, there were like 7,000 sales reps and there was always the thinking that it was not sustainable,” he said. “There was some kind of playing around with digital, but it never caught on because there was always a concern about changing what was working with sales reps. Now that people have been forced to do it and see that it actually works, now I think it’s going to stick.”

One factor helping to secure the longevity of digital pharma marketing is that it’s less expensive than maintaining a large sales force, and it can be changed quickly. It’s much easier and faster to stop an ad campaign or switch out creative than it is to draw down the number of reps in the field.

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The other advantage? Data. Satisfying the demand for “proof” that advertising is working is a matter of producing data and analysis when it comes to digital.

“The more it can be informed with data and information, the more confident people feel that these strategies make sense,” Kallukaran said.

New hires have happened across the company, but with the current emphasis on data, about 20 of the new employees work in data analysis, Kallukaran said.

CMI/Compas considers itself “lucky” in regards to its own digital shift when office shutdowns began in March. That’s because it had already adopted a partial work-from-home model at employees’ request, allowing people to work remotely two days a week.