Agency Business Report 2021: Real Chemistry

The recently rebranded firm went on an acquisition spree and saw double-digit revenue growth.

I had people call me and say their parents got the vaccine because they felt comfortable after learning more. You feel that direct impact when you do this kind of work. — Jim Weiss

In the face of a global pandemic, Real Chemistry saw all kinds of numbers grow in 2020. Revenue boomed 67% year over year to $334 million (a mix between organic growth and acquisitions), the number of staff grew 60% from 2019 and the firm acquired six companies. 

The year was capped by a series of key account wins and culminated in the rebrand from W2O to Real Chemistry in March 2021, a move made to better describe the cohesion CEO Jim Weiss plans to see in the agency’s future.

Fueled by an injection of private equity money in 2019, Real Chemistry went on an acquisition spree, scooping up companies in the areas of health research, creative and social media, healthcare advertising, analytics and medical education.

“The whole point of Real Chemistry is the alchemy of people and talent combined with the data and the tech,” Weiss says. “You can have the best data and the best tech, but if you don’t apply it through these gurus who are passionate about the purpose and the mission, you get nothing. That’s why we’re coming together.” 

‘Health above self’
Real Chemistry’s focus on growing its healthcare comms offering was a key part of the firm’s success in 2020 and early 2021. 

“We have this idea of health above self, which is the idea that we really are trying to innovate and make the world a healthier place for all through our discipline of marketing and communication,” Weiss says.  

Between client work and charitable giving, Real Chemistry put itself at the center of the coronavirus relief effort. Within weeks of the first shutdowns, Real Chemistry partnered with the California Life Sciences Association to create a COVID-19 media tracking tool, which streamlined coronavirus information into a regularly updating communications dashboard. 

The firm established the Networks for Emergencies and Relief nonprofit, which raised $450,000 in aid to source and distribute 2.3 million PPE to organizations in need. It backed the Ventilator SOS campaign, which converted more than 2,000 unused sleep apnea machines into ventilators for hospitals in six countries. 

Real Chemistry focused on many COVID-19-related causes in 2020 and backed Ventilator SOS, which converted unused sleep apnea machines to ventilators.

Real Chemistry also focused on vaccine confidence campaigns, partnering with Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Ad Council. 

Weiss is most proud of the firm’s work advising the Black Coalition Against COVID to launch A Love Letter to Black America, aimed at building vaccine confidence in Black communities.  

“One of our staffers did her full-time job and dedicated herself to that campaign,” he explains. “I had people call me and say their parents got the vaccine because they felt comfortable after learning more. You feel that direct impact when you do this kind of work.” 

The firm also worked internally to build trust among its diverse employees and clients, creating a diversity, equity and inclusion practice headed by Marcia Windross internally and Abby Hayes on the client side.

The firm shows no signs of slowing. Weiss reports the firm has hired 213 people in the first two months of the new year, with more to come. The focus for the coming year will be on what he calls CICTD: collaboration, integration and connecting the dots.

“My mom always used to say, ‘When you think you’ve arrived, it’s time to leave,’” Weiss says. “It’s not about being the next billion-dollar company. We’re always looking around the corner and staying one step ahead of the things that are coming.”

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