Deutsch Loses Prevacid Account to Euro

Move Comes as Pharma Giant Novartis Was Increasing Spending on Brand

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, New York, has lost another key account: ad duties for Novartis' heartburn medication brand Prevacid.

Representatives for Deutsch, which picked up the account in 2007, confirmed the split, but declined to comment further.

A spokeswoman for Novartis said, "We decided to streamline our agency partners." The Prevacid work that was handled by Deutsch will be turned over to Euro RSCG Adrenaline. The agency currently handles brands like Maalox, Excedrin and Benefiber for the pharma giant. She added that "Deutsch continues to be a valued strategic partner for Novartis." Deutsch continues to do work for Novartis' Exelon patch, a treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

The loss comes as a huge blow to Deutsch, as Novartis had plans to ramp up ad spending to $200 million for Prevacid as it tried to gain share in the market for over-the-counter heartburn drugs, industry executives said. The Wall Street Journal in November said its current ad blitz for the Prevacid 24HR pill was the pharma giant's largest OTC-ad campaign in history. Novartis ranks as the 75th largest U.S. advertiser, with an ad budget of $495 million, according to Ad Age's DataCenter.

The Novartis loss also follows a string of account problems for Deutsch's New York office after the agency merged with the U.S. operations of Interpublic sibling Lowe last fall. Since then, it lost two other pharma accounts, sleep-aid Lunesta and allergy medication Zicam. Deutsch also is currently defending ad duties for Ikea, as well as its plum Tylenol account in a pitch against sibling Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., and Omnicom Group's TBWA, New York.

It's a stark difference from the steady success at Deutsch's West Coast operation, which has been virtually unaffected by the merger with Lowe and has seen no account turmoil. In 2009, Deutsch, Los Angeles, brought home the $50 million HTC mobile phone account and replaced General Motors' eliminated Saturn brand with a bigger car account, the $200 million Volkswagen business.

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