MEDIA BUYING & PLANNING: DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER ADVERTISING TRIGGERS PHARMACEUTICALS' SHIFT: STRATEGIC MOVES AIM TO IMPROVE COMPETITIVENESS

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As direct-to-consumer prescription drug ad spending balloons and marketers merge, media consolidations are now the fashion among large pharmaceutical marketers.

In the last six months, Novartis Corp., Glaxo Wellcome and Schering-Plough Corp. have each initiated $100 million-plus media reviews.

ZYRTEC LEADS

In June, Pfizer moved the print portion of its quickly growing allergy drug Zyrtec-a $30 million account-to Paragon Media, New York, which already handled $29.5 million of Pfizer's business.

Pharmaceutical marketers "are doing what consumer advertisers have done for years," says Mike Gross, president of Paragon.

"They're jumping on a bandwagon that makes a lot of sense. These trends wouldn't be happening if double-digit increases in [direct-to-consumer ad] spending weren't going on."

According to Competitive Media Reporting, measured ad spending in the presecription medication category, which includes brands such as Schering-Plough's Claritin, hit $589 million-almost double the $311.7 million invested in 1995.

BETTER MANAGED

The resulting volume has made pharmaceutical marketers turn to consolidations to better manage and exploit their spending power-especially since ad spending within this category is projected to keep escalating.

As the No. 1 DTC advertiser since 1995-the same year Glaxo and Burroughs Wellcome Co. merged-the enormous resources Glaxo musters behind consumer advertising increasingly raised the desire for combined media-buying clout.

"It's clear consumers want more info about their health, and one way we're meeting that need is through direct-to-patient advertising," says a Glaxo spokesman. "We want to achieve the most efficiencies possible by combining everything under one roof. We want to receive value for the money we spend."

15 AGENCIES SPLIT

Until early July, when the business was awarded to Media Edge, New York, Glaxo's $100 million in media buying was handled by as many as 15 agencies, with each doing creative as well.

When Ciba-Geigy Corp. and Sandoz combined to form Novartis, it created a newly unified media budget of $125 million behind the Maalox, Ex-Lax, TheraFlu, Tavist, Triaminic, Desenex, Doan's and Gas-X brands.

The company selected Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, which had previously handled media for Sandoz, with the loss going to Woodbridge Group, New York.

SEEKING PARTNERSHIP

"The merger created the opportunity, but we were looking for a partnership beyond saving a dollar," says a Novartis spokesman, referring to the larger relationship with Ogilvy. "We gained synergy and strategic input-it was more of a strategic move that makes us more competitive."

Paul Kelly, president of package-goods consultancy Silvermine Consulting, believes that one other force at work on media mergers could be flat sales.

"So many of their categories are not growing," he says, "that it becomes time

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