PFIZER TO TOSS $200 MIL UP FOR GRABS: U.S. MEDIA REVIEW UNDERSCORES GROWING ROLE OF DTC ADVERTISING

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Pfizer is conducting a review for its $200 million in U.S. media buying -- half of which went to direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising last year.

The review is in its early stages. Pfizer has yet to select a consultant and has not decided which or how many media agencies will participate. The marketer's goal is to select a winner by yearend.

A Pfizer spokesman confirmed the review. Pfizer Consumer Healthcare Media Director David Dobbins, who is overseeing the process, was not available for comment.

TN, PALMER ON ROSTER

True North Communications' TN Media and R.J. Palmer, both New York, currently handle media for over-the-counter brands; Paragon Media, New York, and Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis, share prescription DTC media responsibilities.

Pfizer awarded its $15 million corporate creative account to Gotham, New York, last month after a separate review handled by Advertising Agency Register.

OTHER CONSOLIDATIONS

Pfizer's is the latest major consolidation to hit the drug market as DTC spending continues to boom, rising to more than $1 billion in 1997 for branded and unbranded campaigns.

Pharmacia & Upjohn consolidated its $125 million U.S. media buying account at Grey Advertising, New York, in March. Last year, Glaxo Wellcome consolidated $100 million in DTC spending at Media Edge.

Once best known for OTC eyecare brand Visine, Pfizer increasingly spends more to build new prescription brands such as antihistamine Zyrtec and anti-impotence treatment Viagra.

Pfizer spent $103 million on branded and unbranded DTC media last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. That ranked it fourth, behind Glaxo Wellcome, Merck & Co. and Bristol Myers-Squibb Co.

IMPROVING EFFICIENCIES

"The growth of DTC ad spending does drive us and we have to look to a means to improve our efficiencies," said a Pfizer spokesman. The reason the company is spending on DTC "is simple. It works," the spokesman said.

Prescription brand Zyrtec got the most support, $51 million in DTC spending in '97, followed by Diflucan antifungal ($15.3 million) and Zithromax antibiotic ($13.8 million). Print ads for Viagra from Cline, Davis & Mann, New York, broke early this month; the brand is expected to get $35 million in media this year.

Pfizer also spent more than $70 million on OTC products last year, including $19.6 million on Visine and OcuHist eyedrops, $12.9 million on Ben Gay ointment, $11 million on Plax mouthwash, and $9 million on Unisom sleep aid.

Pfizer spent another $18 million on animal product brands such as Rimadyl, also included in the media review.

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