The deal would make Omnicom the world's leading seller of health advertising services, pushing its Targis Healthcare division ahead of WPP Group's CommonHealth network in worldwide revenue.
In 1995, CommonHealth had $675 million in billings worldwide with $101 million in revenue; with Cline, Targis had billings of $752 million and $110 million in revenue.
AGREEMENT IS CLOSE
Executives familiar with the talks said they have lasted a year or more, but that an agreement is close.
The market for medical agencies has been a healthy one this year, reflecting the strong prospects for the niche, one of the fastest growing ad categories in the U.S.
In the spring, Omnicom rival Interpublic Group of Cos. acquired two health agencies roughly the same size as Cline: William Douglas McAdams, which was merged into Lowe Group; and Torre Renta Lazur Healthcare Group, merged into McCann-Erickson Worldwide.
Omnicom's Targis division includes a number of sizable medical agencies, including Corbett HealthConnect, Chicago; and New York-based Harrison, Star, Wiener & Beitler; Lyons Lavey Nickel Swift; and Kallir, Philips, Ross.
PFIZER IS BIGGEST CLIENT
While Omnicom could become the largest holder of medical agencies by revenue, CommonHealth USA will remain the largest single agency, with revenue of about $75 million and billings above $400 million, according to Med Ad News.
Cline was formed in 1984. Its clients include Merck & Co., Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals and Pratt Pharmaceuticals. Pfizer is by far the biggest client, representing close to three-quarters of the
agency's revenue, said an executive familiar with the agency.
Two founders still run the agency: Morgan Cline, chairman, and Clyde Davis, president-creative director. Mr. Davis and Omnicom both declined to comment.