The agency bested Ogilvy & Mather, New York in a creative shootout last week, where the agencies presented ideas about brand identity for the new conglomerate. The assignment is expected to be global in scope -- both Glaxo and SmithKline are headquartered in London -- with a principal focus on the U.S.
Calls to Glaxo and SmithKline were not returned at press time.
The assignment is expected to include announcement-type ads once the $76 billion merger closes in September, followed by an image campaign.
The companies announced their intention to merge in January under the name Glaxo Smith-Kline. The merger was scheduled to be completed next month, but has been delayed until late September as the companies await approval from U.S. regulators and a court in the U.K.
The merger will create the world's second-largest drug company behind the new Pfizer, formed last month in a merger between Pfizer and Warner-Lambert Co. Glaxo SmithKline, to be run by SmithKline Chief Executive Jean-Pierre Garnier, will look an awful lot like the new Pfizer with a strong roster of prescription drugs and over-the-counter products. Among the new company's strengths will be two entries in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor category of drugs used to treat depression and anxiety: Paxil from SmithKline and Wellbutrin from Glaxo.
WALL STREET'S INFLUENCE
Drug companies have embraced corporate image ads recently as Wall Street plays an increasingly larger role in the drug business, threatening to deflate stocks of companies that don't post stellar earnings increases. Drug companies also look to the ads to serve as goodwill builders as politicians increasingly question why drugs in the U.S. cost so much more than they do in neighboring Canada and Mexico, and threaten to enact legislation that could curtail profits.
"The drug companies are fighting against political campaigns making them the bad guys," said Laura Ries, president of brand consultancy Ries & Ries.
Ms. Ries also said image ads are aimed at company employees, to make them feel "like they're working for a big, important, impressive company."
The most notable drug company image effort recently has come from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., which uses Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong in a "Hope, triumph and the miracle of medicine" effort. Mr. Armstrong used drugs from Bristol-Myers Squibb to recover from cancer.
Aventis, the company formed last year in the merger of Hoechst Marion Roussel and Rhone Poulenc Rorer, and Pfizer have used campaigns that try to position the companies as allies in the battle to live longer lives. Both use taglines playing off the word life, "Life is our life's work" from Pfizer and "Our challenge is life" from Aventis.