"Our goal is to have a worldwide strategy and be in position to execute those strategies with a partner who can help us," said David Owens, Aventis' VP-global product communications. "When you have a couple of different firms, you get different translations. We might have Omnicom in the U.S. and WPP in France working on the same product. Our ambition is to make sure each brand is represented by a single global agency."
Aventis has relationships with shops owned by Omnicom Group, WPP Group, Havas, Publicis Groupe and Interpublic Group of Cos.
Mr. Owens said the process is a long-term one that eventually will get around to all of the company's core brands. Current discussions center on its oncology drugs, including Taxotere and Genasense. Aventis' top-selling drug is the anti-allergen Allegra. Interpublic's McCann-Erickson, New York, handles the brand's $130 million account.
"It is our anticipation to roll out [the review] to our key strategic brands," Mr. Owens said. "Ultimately, we'll go down that path."
Aventis, based in Strasbourg, France, with U.S. headquarters in Bridgewater, N.J., is the 10th largest pharmaceutical maker in the world, with $6.7 billion in sales last year according to IMS Health. The company spent $177 million in measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.
That number doesn't include ad spending for the diabetes drug Lantus, which is expected to introduce a $100 million campaign via Havas' Euro RSCG Worldwide. It also does not include Lovenox, approved for seven different indications in the U.S. market, or Ketek, an antibiotic expected to receive Food and Drug Administration approval in early 2004. Ad spending levels on Lovenox and Ketek are not known.
Executives at the various holding companies confirmed discussions with Aventis. "I call it more of a scouting out," said one WPP Group executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "But it's big. Procurement is involved and it includes global resources, cross-discipline, cross-geography, basically everything across the board."
"They haven't spoken about brands yet, at least none of significance," said an Omnicom executive, who also asked not to be identified. "I suspect it will get to the Allegras and Lovenoxs soon enough. It looks like if you're going to get in the game with [Aventis] you'd better have a global reach."
"We may very well end up using three, four or five holding companies," Mr. Owens said. "We don't want a monopoly on our brands. Whoever is the right holding company for a brand will get the business. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that the brand is effectively taken care of."