Evoke, Ashfield firms join forces under Evoke banner

The newly combined organization has more than 1,400 staffers across North America and revenue of more than $300 million.

L-R: David Kyne, Reid Connolly, Amar Urghekar.
L-R: David Kyne, Reid Connolly, Amar Urghekar.

The medical marketing and communications arms of Evoke and Ashfield Health have been united under the Evoke banner, the companies announced today.

Evoke will continue to be led by CEO and founder Reid Connolly, with global president, marketing Amar Urhekar; global president, communications David Kyne; chief operating officer Heather Torak; and chief growth officer Eric Daly joining him on the company’s executive council. Urhekar, previously global president of Ashfield Health, said that no layoffs are anticipated.

All Ashfield legacy brands have formally been merged into Evoke, with the exception of Ashfield Medcomms (now a member of the larger organization’s medical group, which also houses Nucleus Global and ApotheCom). The Evoke family consists of Evoke New York, Evoke Philadelphia, Evoke San Francisco, Evoke London, Evoke Kyne, Evoke Navience, Evoke Canale, Evoke Create, Evoke Galliard, Evoke Incisive Health, Evoke MicroMass and Evoke Mind+Matter.

“The idea of bringing together all this talent and all these incredibly well-regarded agency brands across the marketing and creative and media and digital and access space — it’s hard to not get excited about something like that,” Connolly said.

The merger has its roots in May 2020, when private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice bought Evoke parent Huntsworth. A year later, CD&R acquired Ashfield Health parent UDG Healthcare.

The decision to pair the Evoke and Ashfield offerings, however, wasn’t just about generating scale. Yes, the combined organization is vast: Evoke and the three legacy Ashfield firms featured in last year’s MM+M Agency 100 — MicroMassMind+Matter and Create NYC — had 1,123 people under their roofs at the start of 2021 and 1,304 people at the end of it, with that figure surging past 1,400 by late May.

The merged organization has a robust presence in nine North American cities and works with healthcare companies big and small, including Pfizer, Merck, GSK, Bristol Myers Squibb, Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson and Novartis. It surpassed the $300 million revenue milestone in North America during 2021, finishing the year at $304.4 million.

At the same time, the pieces fit together snugly. “I don’t think we’ll be competing with each other the way you sometimes see in a network,” Kyne said. “When I worked with WPP — and there was nothing negative about it — we weren’t always on the best of terms with the other agencies. What we’re doing here is about complementary skills.”

Urhekar noted that market access specialist Evoke Navience can avail itself of the behavioral science muscle of Evoke MicroMass, or that the legacy Ashfield firms can tap into Evoke’s expansive media offering.

“Rather than building a platform for the sake of building a platform, we’re bringing in assets that synergize with each other,” Urhekar said. “We’re structured in a manner that allows each of these agencies to flourish… We’re bringing this to life in a frictionless way.”

The organizations have been working hand-in-hand — and “winning lots of business,” according to global marketing and communications director Simon Hackett — since the end of 2021. That they were able to keep news of the pending merger so quiet is an accomplishment in itself.

“I think it’s a miracle, to be honest,” Hackett said. “When you do a brand launch, you want to get it right. Generally people understand the importance of waiting until everyone’s ready.”

Numerous clients were briefed on the pending announcement well in advance of this morning. Staffers were kept somewhat in the loop over the last six months before members of the leadership team hit the road for sit-downs with every agency brand and office in the network.

To hear Kyne tell it, staffers embraced the pending change, especially as it pertained to the wealth of intercompany opportunities it should afford them.

“When I went to London there were lots of questions around, ‘Hey, can I move to San Diego or Los Angeles?’” he recalled with a laugh. “What’s been really nice is that the more they get to know, the more impressed they are.”

Hackett agreed. “You shouldn’t have to compromise between being in a network and being in a boutique independent,” he noted. “Some people want to hone their expertise in a specific area and some people want to experience multiple career opportunities in lots of different areas and geographies. We can provide that personalization.”

As for how the Evoke/Ashfield marriage will be perceived now that it’s out in the world, the execs are bullish. “Universally, there’s going to be an understanding that neither clients nor prospective talent need to settle anymore,” Connolly said.

“It’s a very rich story. The gravity and enormity and strength of this organization is going to come through,” Hackett added.

Urhekar, for his part, expects his phone to start ringing within hours. “Once people start seeing what we have built, they’re going to say, ‘I always wanted to be like this, but I never could.’ My hope is that everyone looks around and thinks, ‘Wow, those guys got it right.’”

This story first appeared on mmm-online.com. 

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in