LOWE UPS HEALTHCARE PROWESS WITH PURCHASE OF FUSION SHOP: DRUG MARKETERS' GLOBAL OUTLOOK PROMPTS MOVE

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Lowe Group has acquired healthcare education/public relations shop Fusion Communications, London, in an effort to make a better place for itself in the worldwide healthcare market.

The new Lowe Fusion Healthcare will join recently formed umbrella group Lowe Healthcare, created with the goal of establishing a global network and including healthcare ad agency Pace, Parsipanny, N.J., acquired in March, and ad agency Lowe McAdams Healthcare, New York.

EYES 3 MORE AGENCIES

Lowe expects to acquire three more healthcare communications agencies in Europe by yearend. Units in Asia and Latin America are planned for later.

"What's driving it is pharmaceutical companies are starting to think in global terms from a strategic and positioning basis," said John Puglisi, chairman of Lowe Healthcare.

"The pharmaceutical industry is just getting the importance of one brand around the world," said Nick Maiale, the agency's exec VP-director of business development.

Industry veterans note that with drug development costs running in the $500 million range, pharmaceutical makers increasingly seek speed of brand introduction and efficiencies of scale. Imminent changes in the European Community -- expected to allow simultaneous drug launches in many countries -- are fueling such possibilities and the formation of agency healthcare networks.

"By the end of the year, you will no longer be able to submit a drug for approval in any one [European] country," said Mr. Maiale.

Even though direct-to-consumer drug advertising largely doesn't exist outside of the U.S., database marketing to consumers is rapidly growing in Europe.

3 KINDS OF NETWORKS

Many healthcare ad agencies already offer various networks for their clients.

Mr. Maiale broke them into three categories: A "phantom network" of little more than "an office space and fax machine"; a decentralized network with a large consumer agency owning scattered healthcare agencies; and centralized networks that own their agencies.

Sudler & Hennessy, McCann-Erickson Worldwide, D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles' Medicus Communications and Grey Healthcare Group are among those in the last group.

"We're not going to be the largest," noted Mr. Maiale, but what will make Lowe Healthcare unique is an "integration recognition" program, which will give networked agencies an incentive to pitch for more of their clients' business in other countries.

John George, exec VP-international operations at Grey Healthcare, was brought over from McCann to help turn the Grey Advertising unit into a centralized group by buying out its affiliated agencies.

The group is in 16 countries and has regional offices in New York, London and opens another in Hong Kong in January.

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