The RFP for an unnamed $40 million media buying and planning account asks agency officials the rate they paid to reach a specific demographic in a recent broadcast year and suggests that agencies that make the shortlist will have to submit a media plan for another client.
At least one prominent buyer who received the RFP from Atlanta consultancy Wannamaker/MMI has opted out, while another who may participate termed it "unfair."
The RFP is believed to be for a gastrointestinal-tract drug from drug giant AstraZeneca, possibly Nexium or Prilosec.
Wannamaker officials declined comment. The review is still in its formative stages.
In a conflict section, the RFP asks agencies whether they have any buying or planning accounts for any prescription or over-the-counter drug that treats heartburn or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux), drugs against which Nexium or Prilosec would compete.
An AstraZeneca spokesman declined comment.
Nexium, the successor to AstraZeneca's heavily advertised blockbuster Prilosec, has yet to receive approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. AstraZeneca submitted a new-drug application to the FDA in December and clearance could come sometime this year.
Grey Healthcare Group Advertising, New York, is the creative agency for Nexium's professional advertising account.
The launch of Nexium comes at a critical time for AstraZeneca, which will lose the patent for Prilosec next year. AstraZeneca is counting on the new drug to help it withstand a loss in sales when that happens.
Once the patent on Prilosec expires, consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co. gains the rights to market an over-the-counter version in the U.S. D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, won the OTC account two years ago.
Speculation did circulate last week that the RFP was for Prilosec itself, but that seems unlikely. Under a 1997 agreement, P&G co-promotes Prilosec and is believed to be involved in media buying. It is unlikely AstraZeneca would decide to separate Prilosec's comparatively tiny media budget from P&G's, given that the package-goods behemoth wields enormous media-buying clout.
The creative agency for Prilosec is Klemtner Advertising, New York. Prilosec's DTC advertising started in 1997; last year, the drug generated $62 million in spending through the first 10 months, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
The drug's current campaign features well-dressed men and women joyfully tossing their hats in the air to celebrate Prilosec's 24-hour relief; the tagline is "It's Prilosec time."
Currently, Prilosec competes with Rx drugs Prevacid from TAP Pharmaceuticals, Aciphex from Johnson & Johnson and the yet-to-be-launched Protonix from American Home Products Corp.