GSK Heads for a Review of $1.6B Global Media Business

Pharmaceutical Marketer Wants to Work With Fewer Agencies; PHD Holds $550M Account in U.S.

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Pharmaceutical marketer GlaxoSmithKline is holding talks with media agencies that are likely to lead to a review of its $1.6 billion global media account, currently held by about 11 agencies globally, across all communication channels, including TV, print and digital.

Sources close to U.K.-based GSK say that the marketer is currently at the stage of talking to agencies, trying to get a feel for its relationships and options before setting up a pitch that will narrow the roster to just two or three agencies.

The move comes five months after Sameer Singh joined GSK as VP and head of global media with a remit to develop a new approach to media for the global consumer healthcare and pharmaceutical giant. Mr. Singh joined from Procter & Gamble, where he was VP media, Asia and China.

In December, a Team WPP, led by Grey London and Brand Union, picked up the global corporate branding business, but in the past WPP has fared less well on GSK's media roster, with its Mediacom network losing the U.S. business to Omnicom's PHD in December 2010.

Mediacom also lost its GSK media business in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Austria, to Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest in 2010, although it retains the $90 million U.K. media planning and buying account. Starcom MediaVest handles the account in Central and Eastern Europe.

Just a couple of months before PHD won the massive U.S. account in 2010, Group M's worldwide chief business development officer Andrew McLean left WPP's Group M to join PHD as CEO in the U.S. He left the firm last March.

GSK, whose consumer healthcare brands include Aquafresh, Alli, Geritol, Nicorette, Nytol and Tums, did not respond to questions.

GSK is No. 23 in the Ad Age DataCenter's ranking of the top 100 global marketers, spending $1.6 billion on global measured media in 2011, a 2.8% decline from the previous year. The company spent $551.4 million in the U.S., according to Kantar Media, down 23% from 2010. However, in 2011, it boosted its measured media spending 13% outside the U.S. to $1.04 billion. (See for data sources by country.)

This week GSK announced results for the fourth quarter of 2012. Group sales fell 1% to around $40 billion, with the U.S. market down 2% and Europe down 7%. The company is looking at selling off two of its biggest U.K. brands, juice-based soft drink Ribena and energy drink Lucozade, in line with its focus on core healthcare brands and the faster-growing emerging markets.

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