Executives familiar with the matter said Schering-Plough's review is for its estimated $400 million global marketing business. Schering-Plough did not return calls for comment.
With the move, Schering-Plough becomes at least the seventh major marketer to conduct a review at the holding-company level in the last 14 months, joining HSBC, Bank of America, DaimlerChrysler, the ongoing Nestle media review and fellow drug makers AstraZeneca and Sanofi-Synthelabo.
"This is the way it is now," said one health-care agency president. "I wouldn't be surprised if you start seeing some of the bigger pharmaceutical marketers do the same thing before long."
Schering-Plough is the 12th-largest pharmaceutical company in the world, with 2003 revenue of $8.3 billion. Pfizer is the largest drugmaker, with revenue last year of more than $45 billion.
The review is for the company's prescription and over-the-counter brands, but it could not be confirmed whether it encompasses both media and creative. Schering-Plough spent $265 million in measured media in the U.S. last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.
Executives close to the review said WPP Group, Havas, Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe are all believed to have emerged as contenders following initial presentations in Paris in April. WPP, Havas and Omnicom already have Schering-Plough business, both DTC and OTC.
Though Publicis has little to no Schering-Plough business, its Saatchi & Saatchi agency has strong ties to Schering-Plough CEO Fred Hassan dating to when Mr. Hassan ran Pharmacia, which was acquired by Pfizer in 2003.