From the very beginning, agency leadership knew that Theranos was no normal client and Elizabeth Holmes wasn’t an ordinary executive.

This mysterious entrant to the startup scene had already begun to cause a stir years before fame and controversy turned her into both a pariah and an object of obsession.

“When she told us about the product, it sounded phenomenal,” said Stan Fiorito, former managing director at TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles.

“We didn’t see it, but we were really excited about it.” Fiorito served as account lead on the Theranos business and, later, a key source for Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou’s work that led to the company’s dissolution.

Agency and client first connected by way of a venture capital firm called Sandbox Industries, which brokered a 2012 meeting between Holmes, her brother Christian and Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani as well as Fiorito, TBWA L.A. president Carisa Bianchi and creative leader Lee Clow, who served as the key connection due to his legendary work for another tech startup based in Cupertino, Calif.

“We’re the Apple agency, and she wanted to emulate Steve Jobs,” said Fiorito.

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