W2O acquires starpower to expand influencer marketing chops

The tie-up gives W2O a strong foothold as influencer marketing becomes a central strategy for healthcare brands.

Health and wellness-focused agency W2O has acquired influencer marketing agency starpower. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Starpower, founded in 2007 by childhood friends Matthew Lalin and Jared Weiss, focuses on influencer and celebrity marketing. The agency has carved a niche in the healthcare space, and has worked on campaigns such as Get Real With Diabetes with Anthony Anderson for Novo Nordisk, and the Luke Bryan Farm Tour, presented by Bayer and featuring the country music star. 

Starpower has also curated a network of 2,500 influencers in 75 disease states. 

“We thought there was an opportunity to walk healthcare clients through how to work with celebrities and influencers,” Lalin said. “There are so many rules and regulations, there’s such a nuance to it.”

W2O and starpower have been working on campaigns together for more than 10 years, so the acquisition was a natural fit, said Jennifer Gottlieb, global president at W2O. 

“We always talked about the patient as a consumer, but it is so front-and-center now,” she said. “Starpower brings creativity when it comes to reaching that consumer in a way that's meaningful and authentic to them to drive messages about health and wellness.”

Starpower is W2O’s eighth acquisition since last year, when it formalized a partnership with private equity firm New Mountain Capital. Recent acquisitions include Arcus Medica, a scientific communications company that specializes in translating complex medical information; Radius, a digital creative agency in the healthcare space; and Symplur, a social media analytics platform specific to the healthcare industry. 

Starpower and its 40 employees will sit under W2O’s single P&L and have access to the agency’s proprietary data and analytics tools, including its W2O knowledge graph, which blends siloed data sets for a better view of the consumer. W2O is focused on data-driven marketing, with more than 120 data scientists and analysts in-house at the 1,500-person agency. 

“With our network coupled with W2Os storytelling, data analytics and scale, the offering to our collective client base is something we haven't seen before,” Lalin said.  

Despite the complexity of regulations in healthcare, the industry is starting to embrace influencer marketing, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic as tools like telemedicine and virtual care take off. And influencers are proving more willing to open up and advocate about their own healthcare experiences. 

“The pandemic has provided a door for a much needed opportunity in the digitization of health and wellness,” Gottlieb said. “Influencers are that much more important right now.” 

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