When W2O CEO Jim Weiss started the agency, he likely didn’t imagine the flurry of acquisitions, hundreds of new hires that are shaping the pharma and healthcare marketing communications firm heading into its second decade. Much less a global pandemic.
But now, 20 years later, W2O is changing again—to a new name and brand, Real Chemistry. The move rolls up and consolidates 12 acquisitions and hundreds of new hires, along with consistent double-digit revenue growth, under a new umbrella brand.
And still growing. Real Chemistry added 200 people in the first two months of 2021 alone, including several new team leaders. That's on top of the 600 new positions added in 2020, for a total of more than 1,600 employees now and likely topping 2,000 by the end of the year.
In the past six months, the company has snapped up a Hollywood social influencer agency and added a pair of data and analytics firms, while amping up revenue significantly. Its projected revenue of $335 million for 2020 is a more than 50% increase over 2019.
“Our goal in creating Real Chemistry is to continue that tradition as entrepreneurs, collaborators and integrators who connect the dots in a way that helps us, but also our clients, to innovate new ways of marketing and communications,” Weiss said.
He pointed to its work on “Unspoken Symphony” for Greenwich Biosciences, the U.S. subsidiary of GW Pharma, as one example of modern pharma marketing. The initiative, designed to help people with epilepsy who struggle to express themselves, uses web-based image-recognition technology to turn their artwork into music.
The project reflects the ways healthcare and pharma marketing is changing to mirror the adoption of media, technology and data in everyday life, he said. Modern pharma marketing is becoming more integrated and seamless in people’s lives—advancing well past the fledgling “beyond the pill” add-ons that were common in the early days of digital adoption.
While the agency name is changing, Real Chemistry’s day-to-day operations and client interactions won’t shift dramatically, Weiss said. The newly acquired companies and the organically grown business units already are operating under one P&L.
“One of the reasons we’re doing this is to unite everybody around one mission—one team, one dream,” Weiss said. “With one brand and one unified culture, it will help us integrate and collaborate more effectively, which is so important in bringing all of what we do to a client."
And some brands will remain. W2O and 21GRAMS, for instance, will stay intact as large public relations and creative agency brands, respectively.
"I've told the team it's a bit like pointillism, putting it all together bit by bit is what we've been doing here," Weiss said. "Like Georges Seurat, I feel like now it's becoming a real painting that you can see."