AGENCIES KEEP EYE ON PFIZER-PHARMACIA ACQUISITION

Both Marketers Were Big Spenders in Drug Advertising

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Advertising agencies strong in direct-to-consumer drug advertising will keep a close eye the competitive landscape in the next 12 months following Pfizer Corp.'s announcement that it plans to purchase Pharmacia Corp. The deal creates a $60 billion company that owns such big-selling drugs as Celebrex and its successor Bextra, Lipitor and Viagra.

Both companies in 2001 ponied up big bucks in direct-to-consumer advertising, one of the few bright sectors in a depressingly dull year for ad spending. Pfizer spent approximately $362 million in DTC advertising, while Pharmacia spent $232 million, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

Agencies in the mix
Agencies benefitting from

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that marketing spend include WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, New York, (Celebrex, co-marketed by Pfizer and Pharmacia); Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, New York (Bextra, co-marketed by Pfizer and Pharmacia; Zytec, Zoloft), and Pace (Xalatan); Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York (Detrol); Omnicom Group's Merkley Newman Harty Partners, New York (Lipitor); and Cline Davis & Mann (Viagra, Norvasc).

Pharmacia's blood-pressure drug Eplerenone will likley be a coveted account once it receives approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

"There's been a lot of failures with these kinds of drugs," said Bob Ehrlich, CEO of Randolph, N.J.-based Rx Insight. "But if one can come through, it can be a blockbuster."

Media shops
Media buying shops may also be affected by the merger: Aegis Group's Carat, which in 2001 won Pfizer's consolidated media account, and Grey Global Group's MediaCom, which buys for Pharmacia.

If consolidation is in the cards, "a media review won't happen for at least a yaer," said Jon Mandel, co-managing director at Grey Global's MediaCom. "It will take at least that long for Pfizer to absorb Pharmacia."

Currently, MediaCom and Carat work in partnership on some drugs, such as Celebrex, that are co-marketed by Pfizer and Pharmacia. Mr. Mandel said, "We'd be happy to go head-to-head with Carat in a review this year."

An executive at Carat said they haven't talked to Pfizer about the implications of the merger.

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Ann Marie Kerwin, Rich Thomaselli and Richard Linnett contributed to this report.

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