Pharma Giant Merck Begins Global Creative Review

Global Ad Spending by Health-care Marketer Estimated at More Than $1 Billion

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Health-care titan Merck -- parent to brands such as Claritin, Nasonex, Dr. Scholl's and Coppertone -- is embarking on a global creative agency review, according to various industry executives.

A request-for-information document has been circulated to global agencies by the Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based marketer in recent days. The RFI indicates that the company, which in 2010 ranked as the world's No. 3 prescription-drug marketer behind Pfizer and Novartis per market research firm IMS Health, is seeking global marketing ideas for its consumer health-care business. According to the RFI, the consultant conducting the process is New York-based Avi Dan Strategies.

The consultant did not immediately return an email inquiry seeking comment, and neither did representatives for Merck.

Media duties, which were consolidated at Interpublic Group of Cos. last year following Merck's acquisition of Schering-Plough, are not believed to be affected by this review. It's likely Merck is looking to consolidate its creative duties across fewer agencies; it has bits and pieces of its advertising handled by shops spread across several holding companies, including Havas, Publicis and Omnicom.

According to Ad Age 's Datacenter, Merck is the 38th largest national advertiser, spending $921.1 million in the U.S. alone. Globally, the company is estimated to devote well over $1 billion to advertising.

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UPDATE: In an email confirming the agency search after this story was posted, a Merck spokeswoman said: "Merck Consumer Care has a search underway for a second global creative agency that will represent select brands and businesses and complement the work of Euro RSCG who handles a number of U.S. brands and Claritin globally." She added that "Euro's work is not part of this review."

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