Philip Morris International vets launch new agency for regulated industries

MACH9’s clientele includes nicotine, cannabis, alcohol, pharmaceuticals and gambling brands.

Marketers in highly regulated industries must jump through hoops in advertising to adhere to government regulations that other industries don’t.

It can slow companies down, but if they don’t comply, they risk bad publicity or huge financial losses. 

On Tuesday, Jaime Suarez and Albert Moufarrij announced the launch of MACH9, which specializes in helping brands meet regulatory requirements while engaging with audiences online in a socially responsible way.

Suarez and Moufarrij, who both worked client side with tobacco company Philip Morris International, chose the name because of their love for Elon Musk and Star Wars. Mach is the unit of measure for the speed of sound. MACH9 is the speed of sound times nine, which is hypersonic. 

“When we deliver our work to our clients, we're always real-time and super fast,” Moufarrij told Campaign US. “Secondly, we are trying to achieve galactic talent with key strategic hires.”

MACH9, which is headquartered in New York City, works with brands across highly regulated industries including nicotine, cannabis, alcohol, pharmaceuticals and gambling. Most traditional agencies aren’t equipped with legal representation that’s familiar with the laws and regulations for such industries, said Suarez and Moufarrij. 

MACH9 has a well-versed legal team that can weigh in on what messages make sense on regulated brands. Despite the extra precautions, working with highly regulated industries still puts all eyes on the agency. 

“There are a lot of stakeholders involved,” said Moufarrij. “You have entities like the FDA that are always keeping a watch and anti-type organizations that are against the selling of nicotine or cannabis products. That makes it different from selling Pampers online.”

Suarez and Moufarrij aren’t able to disclose MACH9’s specific clients, but say they work with Fortune 500 companies in the regulated space, from nicotine to alcohol, and one of the “biggest tequila producers globally.” The agency is also tapping into pharmaceuticals and working with “some vaccine producers.”

MACH9 anticipates an uptick in business, especially in the cannabis and gambling sectors, which are becoming legal in more states. 

“Society has accepted cannabis way further than where regulation is,” said Moufarrij. “Cannabis companies are coming to us for guidance on what are the right steps to take to ensure that they can grow sustainably down the line, because regulation right now is still not crafted for these types of companies.”

He added that COVID-19 “accelerated the curve” for gambling. “We're not looking at the Draft Kings of the world that already have a digital business model at the core,” Moufarrij said. “We're looking at the brick and mortar companies. They are definitely far behind their competitors. They are trying to move from that analog approach to having a more digitally-driven business model.”

As MACH9 introduces itself to the agency world, Suarez and Moufarrij hope they can establish the group as a mainstay on Madison Avenue while serving clients quickly and efficiently.

“We constantly ask for feedback from our clients to ensure that the level of quality and speed of our services are meeting or exceeding expectations,” Suarez said. “A growing team and happy clients is a good measure of success.”


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