The move by the joint venture, Geneva-based Swiss Precision Diagnostics, brings the brand to a longtime P&G roster shop. It follows a review that included a Publicis sibling -- Saatchi & Saatchi -- on the roster of the world's biggest marketer, according to people familiar with the matter.
A P&G spokeswoman confirmed the move but declined to elaborate on other details, including other agencies involved in the review. Spokespeople for Saatchi and Leo Burnett didn't return calls for comment by deadline.
Incumbent: no reflection on creative
Amalgamated, New York, was the incumbent on the brand, which was wholly owned by Inverness Medical Innovations prior to P&G buying its 50% stake last year.
"They were looking for an existing Procter & Gamble network that was already set up to do typical, average, lowest-common-denominator Procter & Gamble work," said Charles Rosen, founding partner of independent Amalgamated, New York, which defended. "Our feeling is it had nothing to do with our creative and strategic vision for the brand."
Among the edgy work Amalgamated has done on Clearblue Easy was TV ad for a digital test launched last year with a voice-over that said: "Introducing the most sophisticated piece of technology [dramatic pause] you will ever pee on."
Raising the bar
"Leo is a great fit for the brand with tremendous understanding of the global female consumer," the P&G spokeswoman said in a statement. "They are a global agency, which was important as the scope of the assignment is multiregional. ... Importantly, they presented a compelling solution to take the product from medical device to one that also delivers emotional benefit."
P&G has been making strides in its efforts to raise the creative bar in the past year. It was named "Advertiser of the Year" by the management of the International Advertising Festival at Cannes last week, based in part on its print Grand Prix and a Silver Lion for the "Interview" TV ad from Saatchi, both for Tide to Go. The TV ad aired on the Super Bowl earlier this month and won voting in a YouTube contest for Super Bowl ads last week, as two offbeat campaigns for Old Spice deodorant and personal-cleansing products broke from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
In itself, Clearblue Easy isn't a huge account, with an estimated $20 million in global billings. (Inverness reported $23 million in overall ad spending in 2006, the last year the brand was fully consolidated with its financial results.)
Room to grow
But the assignment brings with it considerable room to grow, as P&G is likely to expand the brand globally. It's also unclear whether Leo Burnett will also handle other products launched by Swiss Precision Diagnostics.
Inverness Chairman-CEO Ron Zwanziger has said the joint-venture plans to launch one or two home-diagnostic tests per year. Among tests believed to be in the pipeline are ones for strep throat and children's ear infections, said Greg Simpson, analyst with Stifel Nicolaus & Co., last year.
Clearblue Easy had been owned by P&G rival Unilever until it divested the brand to Inverness for $100 million in 2001. As a testament to how the business and the importance of the home-diagnostics market have grown since then, P&G paid $325 million for only half the business last year. Sales of at-home tests grew to $6 billion in 2006 from $2.9 billion in 1999.