Shift to direct response prompted media-buying review

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Pfizer selected Carat MBS, New York, a division of Carat North America, for the consolidation of its $200 million in media buying.

Others pitching were Omnicom Group's Creative Media and a partnership between two independents, incumbents R.J. Palmer Inc. and Paragon Media, all New York.

Alvin Achenbaum, chairman of Achenbaum Bogda Associates, the consultant on the review, said the nod went to Carat because it seemed stronger in "research resources and models" and strategic planning than the other contenders.


Palmer had done a terrific job as the primary media buyer for Pfizer, Mr. Achenbaum said, "but I don't think they could have improved upon what they have been doing. The so-called clout in buying national network TV has become less and less important. Most buying is bought upfront, and you really can't negotiate too much there."

Pfizer, which spends most of its budget on national TV, concentrated its review on other areas, such as planning.

The account went into review, according to executives close to the process, because the pharmaceutical giant has been getting into more direct-response advertising. Those buys had been handled primarily by two agencies: Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis, for buying and Paragon for planning.

Pfizer, the marketer of Viagra and Ben-Gay, had asked the finalists to prepare media plans for three of its brands: Visine (eyecare products), Zyrtec (allergy relief medicine) and Rimadyl (for cats and dogs with arthritis).


Carat's research used unpublished data to show how the agency would target TV advertising for Rimadyl to TV shows that have a large viewership by pet owners.

Mr. Achenbaum said his company, not known for conducting media reviews, queried 46 media shops before selecting the three finalists, plus Western International Media and DeWitt Media, both New York, to participate in the initial phase of the review.

While conceding that "this was our first media review in the last few years," Mr. Achenbaum noted: "We have the paradigm. What we do is revise it. Clients would have to reinvent the wheel to do a review by themselves."

Copyright December 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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