Klemtner currently handles the heavily advertised Prilosec -- for which ads tagged "It's Prilosec time" feature the dominant image of raining purple pills -- and AstraZeneca felt the agency could help extend the so-called "purple reign."
"They've certainly performed very well" on Prilosec, a company spokesman said. "We wanted to give them the opportunity to do the same thing for Nexium."
The spokesman said Klemtner was awarded the business without a review. Grey Healthcare Group, New York, had done some DTC work, the spokesman said, and will continue to handle the Nexium professional account.
AWAITING FDA OK
A Grey Healthcare executive said "a direct marketing" assignment went to Klemtner, but was not aware of a shift in the DTC portion. Efforts to reach Klemtner executives were unsuccessful.
AstraZeneca is awaiting U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval for Nexium, which could come sometime this year or early in 2001.
The marketer is counting on Nexium to buttress it against a profit dive as Prilosec -- the world's top-selling drug, which IMS Health figures show had $4.2 billion in U.S. sales in 1999 -- loses its patent protection next year.
AstraZeneca stated Nexium has outperformed Prilosec in tests, but some industry observers doubt the drug will be able to duplicate its older sibling's success, especially in the face of heightened competition. TAP Pharmaceuticals recently launched a DTC effort around Prevacid and American Home Products Corp. began marketing another rival, Protonix.
STILL COMMITTED TO PRILOSEC
Prilosec generated $80.1 million in spending in 1999 and $42 million through the first four months of 2000, according to Competitive Media Reporting. The AstraZeneca spokesman said the company is committed to continuing its Prilosec DTC efforts through the fourth quarter of this year, though he declined to say what might happen beyond that -- including whether Prilosec and Nexium ads might run simultaneously.
The size of the Nexium account is unclear. When AstraZeneca awarded media buying and planning duties on the product to Zenith Media Services in May, billings were reported at $40 million. But one executive familiar with the matter said the Nexium account could rise to $100 million.
A decision likely hasn't been made by AstraZeneca executives and will be based largely on the drug's initial success after it hits the market.
Contributing: Laura Petrecca.