The unit is bringing together Scout’s rare-disease experience – at 21 years and counting, it’s thought to be the oldest such specialist in North America – with Code’s cross-category digital chops.
The move was announced to staff at both organizations on Tuesday afternoon. Scout Health, which will remain a distinct brand within Code and Theory Health, ranked 63rd in MM&M’s 2020 Agency 100 with 2019 revenue of $23 million and 110 full-time employees.
"It’s an opportunity to bring more innovation and technology to the health sector," said Scout CEO and principal Jennifer Brekke. She and Scout president and principal Raffi Siyahian will join the leadership team of the new entity, alongside Code and Theory CEO and founder Dan Gardner and president Michael Treff.
While C&T and Scout had worked together in recent years on projects for clients such as Pfizer and Jazz Pharmaceuticals, discussions on formalizing the relationship didn’t start until the spring of 2019.
"Culturally, we love working together," Treff noted.
Talks were put on hold, however, when COVID-19 upended the country.
"We’ve been talking about this for quite some time," said Code and Theory CMO Brent Buntin. "COVID pumped the brakes on our initial attention, but we thought, ‘Now that we’re going to be living with this for a while, why wait?’"
The decision to unite makes sense for both organizations. Code and Theory has worked with a range of health players – LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics and Dignity Health among them – but not as many of the A-list biotech companies with which Scout has long been engaged. Scout, for its part, does more than its share of digital work but not on the scale of the relationships Code and Theory has forged with NBC, JPMorgan Chase and Adidas.
Clearly there’s opportunity to import CPG-like digital experiences to the rare-disease realm.
"What’s probably missing in this space is a full vision of how patients and [healthcare providers] engage with a pharma brand on a fully digital level," Siyahian said. "That’s what we’re going to bring to the marketplace."
Agencies with experience in the rare-disease and specialty spaces rank among the marketing world’s most coveted commodities. UDG Healthcare acquired Cambridge BioMarketing in July 2017, while Fishawack Group snapped up Dudnyk in March 2019. Factor in the entrance of other large network players – who, as Brekke puts it, "used to not touch this that much" – and it seems likely that more deals could ensue.
At the same time, none of the other potential M&A candidates have anything approaching Scout’s history in the space.
"We don’t have one or two case studies; we have 15 years of experience in rare disease across a range of conditions," Brekke added.