Leo Burnett Co. last week snagged Hoechst Marion Roussel's $67 million Allegra allergy remedy, a major win for its direct-to-consumer prescription drug portfolio.
At the same time, its hot Starcom Media Services unit pulled in Sara Lee Corp.'s consolidated $100 million national media buying business. That followed by days the unit's win of Budget Rent A Car Corp.'s $30 million to $35 million media account.
Burnett is on a new-business tear. These pieces of business came shortly after H.J. Heinz Co. awarded the agency its $50 million global branding for Heinz ketchup and Procter & Gamble Co. consolidated at Burnett its $287 million in U.K. media buying and the $75 million Vidal Sassoon brand.
BISHOP LEADS CHARGEThe majority of the new business, including Allegra, is coming from "Agency A," Burnett's healthcare shop under its new mini-agency structure. That operation is headed by Managing Director Mary Bishop, who led the Heinz pitch team and is the worldwide account director on P&G.
Burnett finalized its contract with Hoechst late last week, following an informal review.
"We felt this was an appropriate move at this time," said Hoechst spokeswoman.
She declined to give specific reasons for the agency switch, citing only a "very competitive environment."
In mid-September, Allegra received new brand managers, which often results in agency reviews. Doug Randall succeeded Jan Creidenberg as product director.
Medicus Group International, New York, the healthcare unit of MacManus Group that had the account, keeps the estimated $25 million professional assignment.
MEDICUS STARTED WITH SELDANE
Medicus had an 18-year relationship with Hoechst, having worked on the Seldane antihistamine until that brand was replaced by Allegra in October 1996. The agency created the well-known "wheat surfer" TV spot, which played a part in the Food & Drug Administration's 1997 move to broaden TV advertising guidelines for prescription drugs.
On the downside for Burnett, it may lose client Eli Lilly & Co.'s $34 million Evista osteoporosis brand. The account is not officially in review, but a Lilly spokeswoman said the company is "not currently working with Burnett" on Evista.
"We're moving away from the purchase of mass media and taking a pause to re-evaluate where we are with it," she said. "It's still really early and we're looking at what's out there. It will probably take some time."
Burnett retains Lilly's $25 million DTC assignment for its Prozac antidepressant brand.
But it's the allergy category that sees the most DTC action.
In 1997, Schering-Plough Corp. spent $68.4 million for its Claritin brand while Hoechst threw $64 million behind Allegra. This year, the battle has been even more intense. For just the first seven months, Claritin's media support doubled to a whopping $76.2 million, compared with Allegra's $33.6 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
STARCOM GETS MEDIA
Allegra media buying will be handled by Burnett's Starcom.
In the competition for Sara Lee, Starcom won out against Grey Advertising's MediaCom, Optimum Media and Ammirati Puris Lintas, all New York. The latter pitched with sister shop Western International Media, West Hollywood, Calif.
The company opted for Burnett because "they have a very clear vision of how to use media to help our brands," said Bob Fellows, VP-advertising services at Sara Lee. "They not only apply technical skills [such as optimizers] but unique proprietary research."
In addition to its namesake bakery line, Sara Lee's brands include Hanes, Bali, Coach, Kiwi, Hillshire Farm, Ball Park and Champion.
Sara Lee's six-person decision team also was impressed by "a Web-based communication system" the agency proposed, he said. The assignment doesn't include local buying or planning; they remain with creative agencies for each of the brands, Mr. Fellows said.
Mr. Fellows added that Sara Lee was unconcerned about parent Burnett's relationship with rival Pillsbury Co. because that assignment is creative only.
Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.