Five Shops Chase Tylenol's Creative Ad Account

Incumbent Deutsch Joins TBWA, DDB, Goodby, Martin in Pitch; Media-Planning Duties Also in Review

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- At least five agencies from two holding companies, Omnicom Group and Interpublic Group of Cos., are pitching creative duties for Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol and Motrin brands, executives familiar with the situation said. And the marketer confirmed it is also reviewing its media-planning business.

Pitching the creative account are Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Goodby Silverstein & Partners and DDB Worldwide and Interpublic's Martin Agency and Deutsch, the brand's incumbent agency of six years. Agencies either could not be immediately reached or referred calls to J&J.

"McNeil Consumer Healthcare has initiated a review both of the online and offline advertising for its Tylenol and Motrin brands as well as media planning for those businesses," a J&J spokesman said in a voicemail message. "This decision was made in order to continue to challenge ourselves to ensure we have the best creative and marketing for our brands."

He declined to comment on what agencies were involved in the review or whether the decision had to do with business results for the brands, or, in the case of Motrin, with a well-publicized Twitter firestorm last year over an online video and print campaign about moms who wear their babies in slings. The Motrin brand has been "inactive" in 2009 in marketing, according to one person familiar with the matter.

Media is handled by Universal McCann and independent Naked.

The move comes as J&J is in the midst of a reorganization and is re-examining assignments for several brands under its umbrella, executives said. For the Tylenol pitch, the marketer is expected to meet with agencies this month and narrow down the list of contenders. A final decision is expected by February, according to people familiar with the situation.

J&J is the fifth-biggest advertiser in the country, according to Ad Age's DataCenter. It spent more than $2.5 billion in the U.S. alone last year to market its various brands, and more than $100 million of that was devoted to the Tylenol brand.

The review could deal a severe blow to Deutsch, the creative agency of record for Tylenol since November 2003. Among its recent work for the brand was a huge push for Tylenol PM that focused on outdoor executions, online banners and a "Sleep Tracker" iPhone app. The agency also crafted the Tylenol brand's preventative-care positioning of "Feel Better."

Meanwhile, J&J this summer quietly moved domestic ad duties for its Motrin brand to Deutsch from independent Taxi, New York, which created the infamous baby-sling Motrin ad. However, Taxi still handles the account in Canada.

The review means that Deutsch could lose all of its J&J business, and Interpublic could see a significant chunk of its J&J account -- which ranks among the holding company's top five clients -- head to Omnicom Group.

Deutsch is set to part ways with two accounts that became conflicts after its recent merger with its Interpublic sibling (and another J&J roster shop) Lowe: sleep-aid Lunesta, which bumps up against Tylenol PM, and allergy medication Zicam. In addition to Tylenol, creative duties for another Deutsch account, Ikea, are also currently in play.

While Omnicom and Interpublic are on J&J's roster, the list of agencies that have been invited to pitch for Tylenol aren't all roster shops. Other gencies on J&J's roster include: Omnicom's BBDO (which is blocked from the Tylenol pitch because it handles Bayer's aspirin brand); WPP's JWT, which handles the Zyrtec brand; and independent Mother, which handles oral-care and sexual-health products. Hispanic advertising is split between Vidal and La Comunidad.

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