GlaxoSmithKline launches print ads

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GlaxoSmithKline, the behemoth created through the $73 billion combination of pharmaceutical powerhouses Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham, launches an international print campaign heralding its formation this week.

The ads, which are aimed in part at investors who may have doubts about the newly merged company's research-and-development pipeline, assert, "Disease does not wait. Neither will we." The company received regulatory clearance late last month and saw its stock begin trading Dec. 27; its shares were down late last week.

The company's Web site ( will also launch this week as the individual sites of each company have been taken off-line.

GlaxoSmithKline's logo, which appears in the full-page announcement ads from M&C Saatchi, New York and London, is a light-red design resembling a heart overlaid with the lowercase initials "gsk." A GlaxoSmithKline spokesman said the company will be known as GlaxoSmithKline, but GSK will serve as a colloquial or secondary name, as well as its stock symbol.

Ads-which target Wall Street, the company's more than 100,000 employees, physicians and the general public-will run in The Wall Street Journal (globally); Philadelphia and Raleigh and Durham, N.C., newspapers (headquarters will be split between the two areas); the New England Journal of Medicine; and Newsweek (globally), among other outlets. Spending was undisclosed, but is estimated at $1.5 million.

The ads feature "Today is the day" in large letters, followed by "139,000 people will die prematurely from disease" and "over 25,000 of them will be children under five."

"But today is also the day," the ads reads, "that Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham become one." It says company employees will pool their talents to fight diseases around the world.

It was unclear whether the ads will serve as the first plank in a broader corporate-image effort from the company. That was expected when M&C Saatchi outdueled Ogilvy & Mather for the GlaxoSmithKline corporate account in July. But the company spokesman said there were no plans along those lines that he could discuss.

Any corporate work takes on a certain sense of urgency as the company seeks to reassure a skeptical investment community that it can deliver stellar earnings growth. The company, which sought greater market share and cost savings through the merger, is viewed by some as having a lackluster chest of new drugs nearing launch.

Glaxo Wellcome also has taken recent hits as two highly touted drugs, flu treatment Relenza and irritable-bowel-syndrome product Lotronex, have led to government safety concerns and failed to generate impressive sales. Lotronex's potential safety problems were so acute that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration forced it off the market last year.

GlaxoSmithKline's prospects could dim further if the Federal Trade Commission forces the company to divest any smoking-cessation brands. With SKB's over-the-counter Nicoderm and Nicorette lines and Glaxo's prescription Zyban, GlaxoSmithKline has a dominant position in the category. Review of that position held up the merger, which was announced a year ago, and the FTC cleared it in late December but reserved the right to force a divestiture. GlaxoSmithKline said it does not expect one.

The company has already sold rights to some drugs to satisfy regulators. It maintains a strong position in the market for antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) with its Paxil and Glaxo's Wellbutrin, as well as in the asthma and headache treatment areas.

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