Longtime digital health marketing leader Ritesh Patel is taking his big-time agency experience to an independent marketing communications shop.
In a new role as senior partner in Finn Partners' global digital health division, Patel will pitch in years of experience to the growing health practice. He joins Finn along with former Ogilvy colleague Richard Hatzfeld, who's also taken a role as senior partner in Finn's D.C. Health Group.
Hatzfeld oversaw Ogilvy’s vaccine communications for the past five years and brings even longer experience as a leading public health advocate and brand strategist.
Patel spent seven years at Ogilvy, most recently as chief digital officer at Ogilvy Consulting. Before Ogilvy, Patel led digital strategy at inVentiv Health, which is now Syneos Health.
It’s good time for both Finn and Patel as digital continues to surge, thanks largely to the pandemic. For many pharma companies, digital plans that had been sitting on the back burner for years suddenly moved to the forefront as office closures shut down sales rep visits.
“I had conversations last year that went something like ‘Oh we loved that presentation you did from three years ago, we should do that,’” Patel said. “So I’d say ‘OK, which piece of it do you want, because there were 20 things in there?’ And their answer was, ‘We want all of it—and we need to do it this year.’”
Unrealistic expectations aside, the digital marketing and communications surge by pharma companies was, and continues to be, very real.
Many companies spent 2020 pushing different digital strategies forward to see what might work. This year may be a bit of a reckoning as drugmakers and their agencies sort through which ideas are working, which will stay and which won’t.
One thing Patel believes is here to stay is a hybrid role for sales reps that balances in-person calls with digital promotions and communications.
“Some companies that started to adopt digital models and indirect engagement didn’t see much of a difference, so the question you have to ask is the rep model still the most valid model or is there a new hybrid model?” he said.
Ritesh and Hatzfeld are two of a handful of Ogilvy executives to depart recently as its parent company WPP made changes at the business. Several CEOs have cycled out of Ogilvy Health—including the most recent departure, Kate Cronin, who left to become chief brand officer at vaccine maker Moderna. WPP executive Kim Johnson was named this month to take over as global CEO.
Finn also hired a new executive creative director, Pepe Aguilar, who joins from Grey Wing New York.