GOTHAM ADS RUNNING, BUT WEBMD PICKS O&M: MERGER WITH HEALTHEON GIVEN AS THE REASON

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WebMD wrote a new prescription last week: Gotham out, Ogilvy & Mather in.

Just one month after the launch of Gotham's $35 million branding effort, the Internet healthcare company switched agencies without a review.

New York-based O&M will now shepherd the bulk of WebMD's marketing efforts, estimated at more than $200 million over the next five years. That figure includes distribution and joint alliances.

O&M first hooked up with WebMD through Healtheon Corp., already familiar with O&M. WebMD and Healtheon agreed to merge earlier this year, with the transaction expected to wrap up this fall.

"It was a tough decision" to switch shops, said WebMD Chief Marketing Officer Reggie Bradford.

But he said O&M is able to provide WebMD with the global network that Gotham lacks.

"We were pleased with the campaign to date, but now we need to move to the next phase," he said.

'EVOLVING SO RAPIDLY'

When asked why the company switched agencies so quickly, Mr. Bradford said, "This is the Internet and our business model is evolving so rapidly. Time is money, and we needed to make a move."

In addition, he said the company's strategic alliances with CNN, Excite, Lycos, MSN, Reader's Digest Association and Westwood One are expected to ramp up this fall.

Gotham CEO Stone Roberts said the loss came as a surprise.

"Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. [Marketers] buy, they sell, they have acquisitions and joint ventures," he said. "It's a wild ride, but you take a deep breath and move on."

O&M will create a global campaign, slated to include TV, radio, Internet, print, direct mail and outdoor advertising. The effort will break after the WebMD and Healtheon merger.

WebMD (www.webmd.com) provides free healthcare information to consumers and subscriber services to physicians. The company seeks to position itself as the first "end-to-end healthcare solution on the Internet." Its slogan: "Health has a home page."

The WebMD win is the third in the last month for O&M. The WPP Group agency nabbed the estimated $50 million Wings Alliance and $95 million Miller Lite accounts earlier. WebMD joins IBM Corp., Mothernature.com and Ameritrade in

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