NOVARTIS UNIFIES $125 MIL MEDIA ACCOUNT AT O&M: PHARMACEUTICAL GIANT ALSO PARES CREATIVE ROSTER FROM 8 TO 5 SHOPS

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In a major realignment of its agency roster, Novartis Corp. consolidated its $125 million U.S. media buying account at Ogilvy & Mather, New York, and cut its lineup of shops for creative from eight to five, slicing half its incumbents while adding a new agency.

The agencies staying on the pharmaceutical giant's roster, in some cases with new assignments, are: Grey Advertising and Grey Healthcare; Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor; NCI Masterson; and Seiden Group.

TBWA CHIAT/DAY ADDED

TBWA Chiat/Day was added to the Novartis arsenal in the U.S.

Robert Becker Inc., NCI Adver-tising, Publicis/Bloom and Sawtooth Group were all cut.

O&M's media win came at the expense of Woodbridge Group, New York, a subsidiary of Jordan McGrath.

The assignments were a significant part of a global review. Grey and TBWA are now among those poised to win or keep international business as well; each works for Novartis in Europe.

WORLD'S NO. 1 DRUG CO.

Formed by the 1996 merger of Swiss pharmaceutical companies Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz, Novartis is the world's largest drug company by sales. The company is doubling its marketing staff and has increased its media budget by 25%. Prior to the merger, O&M handled media for Sandoz, while Woodbridge Group handled media for Ciba-Geigy.

"We're a new organization and we have new needs and new expectations," said Lisa Gonzales, Novartis VP-marketing, about the reassignments.

For Novartis creative assignments, Grey was a strong winner, with its healthcare unit assigned all professional advertising and its consumer side adding much business. The agency kept Maalox and Ex-Lax, while adding Desenex and Cruex anti-fungals, and Dulcolax laxative, along with future ads for Perdiem fiber supplement and prescription products Lamisil and Transderm Scop.

The added brands were supported by $27 million last year; Maalox got $27 million and Ex-Lax $5 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Becker, along with NCI Advertising, lost those professional assignments to Grey. NCI Masterson kept Choltrol, a new dietary cholesterol supplement set to be test marketed later this year. The two NCI shops are units of Nelson Communications.

NEW ADVERTISING AHEAD

Several of these lesser-known brands are to get new advertising this year. Motion sickness patch Transderm Scop has been off the market for three years due to "production problems" the company said, but will be relaunched later this year with significant direct-to-consumer ad support.

"Novartis is devoted to growth and being entrepreneurial," said Ed Meyer, president-CEO of Grey Advertising. "They're good brands, though not necessarily mega-brands. The opportunity is to make them dynamic."

Although a new $9.5 million Desenex campaign just broke from Jordan McGrath, New York, (AA, May 19), the agency lost the brands Grey gained. Jordan McGrath added Tavist, TheraFlu and Triaminic, whose media spending totaled $45.7 million in 1996.

Publicis/Bloom previously handled those cough/cold products.

Jordan McGrath will immediately begin work on an $11 million campaign for new Tavist Sinus, the brand's second extension, shipping to stores in August. It is the first new product under Novartis, and the company hopes it will slow the parent brand's 18% slide in the allergy category for the 52 weeks ended April 27, per Information Resources Inc.

TBWA/Chiat Day's New York office gained several small brands, including Ascriptin, Doan's and Gas-X. Those brands got $14.6 million in media during 1996; Ascriptin was unsupported. Sawtooth Group, Woodbridge, N.J. had handled Gas-X.

Grey and TBWA are dominant Novartis agencies in Europe.

"The fact that we now have global partners could have implications for them," said Ms. Gonzales. "We're interested in global assignments and they have the ability to transfer learning to both sides of the pond."

Seiden Group, New York, kept nicotine patch Habitrol, which failed to cross to OTC earlier this year.

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