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Agency Returns to Headache Pill Advertising 2 Years After Tylenol Loss

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NEW YORK ( -- Less than two weeks after Novartis said it will acquire a portfolio of over-the-counter products from New York-based rival Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., the Swiss drug company shifted
In 2004, Bristol-Myers Squibb spent $52 million in U.S. measured media to advertise various Excedrin products.
advertising responsibilities for pain medicine Excedrin to Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, according to an executive familiar with the matter.

A spokeswoman for Saatchi, part of Publicis Groupe, referred calls to the client. Brian McNamara, senior vice president and general manager for Novartis OTC, did not return calls at press time.

Under the Radar
There was no review. Under the Radar, an independent boutique agency in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., handled the Excedrin creative. The agency won the business in 2003 from Bozell, New York, a now-defunct Interpublic Group of Cos. agency.

WPP Group's MindShare has handled media buying and planning for Bristol Myers Squibb. It is unclear whether that business will change agencies as a result of Novartis' OTC acquisition.

Excedrin had U.S. sales of $160 million, according to a press release issued by Novartis, and provides Novartis an entry into the U.S. analgesic tablet market, the country's largest OTC category with estimated 2004 sales of $2 billion. In 2004, Bristol-Myers Squibb spent $52 million in measured media in the U.S. to advertise various Excedrin products, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Saatchi works with Novartis on other OTC brands, winning late last year direct-to-consumer advertising responsibilities for Theraflu, Triaminic, Voltarin and Otrivin. According to one executive, Saatchi won the Excedrin business on the basis of its history launching and building the Tylenol brand -- and account the agency lost in 2003 after 28 years -- and on the basis of its current efforts on the Novartis brands.

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