NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi has added U.S. ad duties for Enfamil baby formula, expanding its relationship on parent Mead Johnson Nutrition's nearly $300 million global account after a lengthy pitch.
Executives familiar with the matter say Mead Johnson, based in Glenview, Ill., several months ago reached out to a handful of large agency networks to present ideas for the Enfamil brand, including the likes of WPP-owned Grey and Ogilvy & Mather. The latter has handled customer-relationship management work for Mead Johnson, but declined to participate in the pitch due to a conflict with Nestle.
Saatchi, which partnered with sibling Digitas for the pitch, has handled advertising for Enfamil in Latin America as well as some markets in Asia, two regions where Mead Johnson's business has been growing.
The appointment of Saatchi to handle U.S. advertising gives Mead Johnson a lead creative agency partner, something it hasn't had for awhile.
The account shift comes amid a wave of changes taking place at Mead Johnson, including an IPO this year to split from Bristol Myers Squibb Co., which wants to focus on its global pharmaceutical business. More changes could be ahead as some analysts have speculated that Mead Johnson, after the completion of its spinoff, could draw takeover bids from marketers including Groupe Danone or Nestle, which are increasingly focusing on nutrition and infant products.
Recent advertising problems
Interestingly, the Enfamil pitch also comes after the marketer ran into problems with its advertising and product labeling. Comparative claims that Enfamil contains certain nutrients for babies that other formulas don't resulted in action by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which took the matter to the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year for review.
Meanwhile, competitors such as Abbott Laboratories, which markets its formula under the Similac brand, have also filed claims against the company. A false-advertising suit by PBM Products, a distributor of store-brand infant formulas and nutritionals, is scheduled to go to trial this month. Mead Johnson has said PBM's claims lack merit and that it is vigorously defending the lawsuit.
In a statement to Ad Age, Mead Johnson said: "We see [Saatchi] as an excellent partner for exploring a variety of communication channels, including evolving digital media, to build even deeper levels of confidence and trust in our quality brands among U.S. consumers and health-care professionals."
In devising forthcoming marketing efforts for Enfamil, "Obviously we'll be making sure of where it stands in consumers' minds and health professionals minds," said Mary Baglivo, CEO of Saatchi, New York, and chair of the agency network's Americas region.
Mead Johnson has slightly increased its ad budget during the recession, to $283 million for the first nine months of 2009, from $276 million in the same period last year. Much of the spending increase was invested in the Asian and Latin American markets.
Enfamil's U.S. ad budget has been meager in recent times, but the marketer is planning to significantly step up domestic spending in 2010. According to TNS Media Intelligence data, U.S. spending in 2007 and 2008 was in the $2 million to $3 million range.