WPP Group's Grey Global Group and Grey Healthcare had handled the global account for the $1 billion-a-year brand, P&G's largest prescription drug, since its launch in 2001. The move gives Omnicom, which had largely been shut out of P&G's general-agency assignments prior to the acquisition of Gillette Co. last year, another major foothold with the world's biggest advertiser. Sanofi-Aventis is marketing partner with P&G, developer of the drug.
DDB already had picked up duties for Enablex, a urinary incontinence drug on which P&G signed a co-marketing agreement with Novartis last year, a spokeswoman said. Novartis had assigned the account to Enablex in January 2005 prior to the deal with P&G in July.
Expanding a close-knit roster
The move is the latest of several for P&G outside its once close-knit roster of Publicis Groupe agencies and WPP's Grey in the past year, including a shift of the Old Spice account from Saatchi & Saatchi to Wieden & Kennedy earlier this year.
The account shift comes as Actonel faces growing pressure from once-monthly Boniva, which appears to have taken share from the P&G drug since it was launched by Hoffman LaRoche and GlaxoSmithKline last year. P&G filed a false-advertising suit against the marketers of Boniva earlier this year. That suit was set for hearing this week on a preliminary injunction request by P&G in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which now appears likely to be re-scheduled for May or June.
P&G in its complaint claimed "prescription and sales of Actonel declined and have continued to decline ever since" a marketing campaign from Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi Consumer Healthcare Group, New York, for Boniva falsely implied the once-a-month drug is as effective as weekly doses of Actonel in preventing non-vertebral bone fractures.
In their answer, Hoffman LaRoche and GSK denied P&G's allegations and said P&G's suit was also barred by its own "unclean hands" in making false or unsubstantiated claims about the comparative safety and effectiveness of Actonel.
P&G earlier this year announced it would eliminate 300 pharmaceutical research jobs in order to concentrate on marketing drugs developed elsewhere, as it is with Enablex. The move comes as P&G's broader drug business also faces growing pressure from the June expiration of P&G's three-year exclusionary period for marketing Prilosec OTC, the over-the-counter version of AstraZenica's heartburn drug, which will open the door for private-label competition.