J&J Makes First Cut: Carat Loses $400 Million Account

Pfizer Agency Dropped Even Before $3 Billion Merger Consolidation Review Kicks Off

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CINCINNATI (AdAge.com) -- Johnson & Johnson's global media review has yet to begin, but Aegis Group's Carat is already out: The agency's $400 million-plus North American buying and planning assignment on brands being acquired from Pfizer will go to J&J incumbents after the merger is finalized, the marketer said.

Aegis Group's Carat, which has handled media buying and planning for a stable of Pfizer brands, is losing that work as those brands are acquired by Johnson & Johnson.

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J&J, working at least on a limited basis with the four leading holding companies, appears to have no interest in adding a fifth -- Aegis -- to the mix.

Review plans
A J&J spokesman declined to comment on plans for a review. "Given that we've yet to complete [the deal], we're not going to provide additional details about the decisions," he said. "As usual, post-close, we'll work with our brands and agencies to evaluate our needs for the longer term."

But the scrap for J&J's $2.5 billion to $3 billion global media account is likely to be one of the most hotly contested reviews of next year. The major holding companies -- already laden with consumer-package-goods conflicts -- may have to contort their agency offerings in order to accommodate J&J's wide portfolio of brands.

Clear winners
WPP and MindShare are clear winners for now and stand to possibly pick up more in a review.

At least until the review gets under way, MindShare gets to keep its Pfizer assignment despite also handling oral and skin-care brands for J&J rival Unilever overseas. It's a marked improvement from when Procter & Gamble Co. summarily dismissed MindShare from Gillette accounts after acquiring the razor business last year over similar conflicts with Unilever.

Keeping the Pfizer accounts substantially increases WPP's footprint on the broader J&J roster. Right now WPP's main presence on the roster is a temporary assignment for Ogilvy & Mather, which has been tapped to handle multibrand J&J work around the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and extensive research and consulting assignments for its Kantar Group.

MindShare's Group M sibling Mediaedge:cia continues to handle direct-media planning and buying for Pfizer prescription-drug brands, but the shop doesn't work for incoming Pfizer OTC or personal-care brands.

The divisions
The J&J spokesman also declined to specify how the Pfizer accounts would be divided between Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann and Omnicom Group's OMD. But if the brands are split along the lines of current J&J brand assignments, Universal McCann will get the bulk of the incoming Pfizer work in North America -- including Listerine, the biggest prize. Those assignments would be added to the over-the-counter drug and personal-care brands Universal McCann already handles in tandem with Interpublic creative shops McCann Erickson, Lowe and Deutsch. Under that setup, OMD would get skin care and hair-care brands now handled by sibling BBDO for Pfizer, including Lubriderm and Rogaine.

Otherwise, incumbent Interpublic's Initiative will pick up buying for the Pfizer brands overseas and will continue to handle most media planning and buying for J&J brands overseas, with two exceptions.

OMD will continue to handle planning and buying for all J&J brands in China in an assignment it won earlier this year. And WPP Group's MindShare will keep its planning assignment with Pfizer brands overseas after the acquisition closes, which is expected in mid- to late December, the spokesman said. All assignments are contingent on the close of the $16.6 billion deal announced this summer.

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Lisa Sanders contributed to this report.
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