Acquisitive W2O Group snaps up New York creative shop 21GRAMS

Independent pharma and healthcare agency W2O Group bought 21GRAMS today in a deal that expands the parent group's creative capabilities. The move comes less than two months after W2O rolled up three agencies in a deal aimed at boosting its science expertise.

Buying New York City-based 21GRAMS is a bit of a step in the other direction. With it, W2O adds a shop known for its creative edge in pharma and healthcare marketing. The advertising creativity fest Cannes Lions Health, for instance, highlighted a case study about 21GRAMS' YouTube reality comedy series on hemophilia.

The agency is also growing rapidly. Launched in 2016 by founder, CEO and sole employee Robert Blink, the agency now boasts 150 employees. 

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“We’ve been in the market somewhat informally to add to our offering,” said Jim Weiss, W2O Group CEO and founder, and the creative and commercialization capabilities are "something our clients have been asking us to add over the years.”

For 21GRAMS, joining forces with W2O brings scale and international presence to the smaller group as well as W2O's well-established data and analytics technology. With the acquisition, W2O Group now has more than 1,100 employees around the world.

Blink described 21GRAMS’ philosophy on pharma advertising as helping clients move away from typical and often overlooked banner-type digital ads and into branded content.

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“If we think about how we consume what we watch every day, it’s a Netflix-type of programming, and that’s what we think we can offer patients and consumers in healthcare. Very watchable types of programming that teaches and can help brands,” he said.

21GRAMS will retain its name, staff and separate offices, although Weiss said he envisions crossovers and shared resources as the groups begin to work together.

“This really rounds out our offering for clients," Weiss said. "Especially the mid-sized companies are looking for, not necessarily a one-stop shop, but a holistic approach, to marketing communications."