The Pharma Report: Tank

The growing agency combines global capabilities with local expertise.


Jonathan Cogan was always intrigued by Tank. Several of his colleagues had migrated to the 12-year-old Montreal agency, and he knew they did great work. “But from the outside, I didn’t see them as a global threat,” he says. “Their early success was mostly with Montreal-based clients.”

That perception changed. Pitching a big Toronto client, “we delivered what we thought was an unbeatable presentation,” Cogan says. “We were told there was only one agency left to pitch, and they’d have to pull off a miracle to beat us. Sure enough, Tank pulled off that miracle, and it became obvious that their vision was larger than many of us had imagined.”

Cogan is now VP and managing director of Tank’s Toronto operation and is helping realize that vision. Following Tank’s 2016 acquisition by international agency network Grey Group, it has expanded its 150-person Canadian organization to four locations in Europe, one in the U.S. and one in Asia.

The Toronto office is rapidly expanding to serve as a second home base for global work. “We’ve just hired six people in Toronto. As important as their skill sets are, our focus was on finding an entrepreneurial spirit. Many are coming from outside of healthcare, but the curiosity and passion that enabled them to thrive in the industries they’ve worked in before are proving to be transferable.”


This bathroom takeover for GSK was part of a full Rogers Cup activation that encouraged people to take the risk of shingles more seriously, turning a look in the mirror into a health reminder.

Tank president Marc Lanouette says the Grey deal “really opened up the world to us, and let us export our approach to the global pharma business.” Adding that the agency will double in size this year.

That won’t change how Tank operates, however. It prides itself on a flat team structure, making sure each client gets senior-level staff working on their brand. “We want a mix of people with traditional and client-side backgrounds,” Lanouette says, pointing to execs like Christian Roy, Tank’s EVP, healthcare who used to be VP, marketing at Pfizer.

“In pharma, it’s important to have people who understand your reality whether that’s a regional reality or a global reality,” Lanouette adds. “We’re now doing both regional and global work with our Canadian teams. We’re in a position to be able to shape a global platform and represent the Canadian perspective natively.”

The shop has brands from Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Abbvie and others in its portfolio, but its first global account was for a GSK brand. The global and U.S. marketing teams were brought to Canada to take part in the agency’s Think Tank: a unique multi-day process where Tank’s senior leadership works hand-in-hand with marketers to deconstruct business problems.

“We helped solve issues they’d been trying to solve for three years,” Lanouette says. “We’ve gone on to win other GSK brands.”

Lanouette describes the Think Tank process as a blend of world-class consulting and global creative expertise. “We could do well focusing on executional, production-oriented work that doesn’t require as much creativity. But that’s not what we want. We want to get further upstream. We have amazing strategists and experts who’ve come from just about every major pharma company. Why squander that when we can find creative ways to connect with people?”

It’s only been four months since he signed on, but Cogan knows that moving to Tank was the right call. “Many agencies promise a collaborative creative environment,’ he says. “But in just a few months I’ve already experienced several examples of how Tank and Grey actually live up to that promise.”


Jonathan Cogan

Vice President, Managing Director