New TBWA/Health joins DTC ad fray with merged unit

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TBWA/Chiat/Day capitalizes on the robust direct-to-consumer market with the launch of a new unit, TBWA/Health.

The division merges Omnicom Group healthcare shop Health Medical Consumer Advertising & Marketing with TBWA, a sibling Omnicom agency. Jerry Lee, former HMC managing director, takes the helm of TBWA/Health as president.

Twenty-two HMC employees will move to the new entity, which is designed to utilize TBWA's strategic planners and creative staff. HMC also brings with it clients such as Pfizer, Braintree Laboratories, Amgen, Alcom Laboratories and Abbott Labs. TBWA will absorb HMC's Patient Quest division, which recruits volunteers for clinical trials. The New York-based TBWA/Health will ultimately provide resources for the entire TBWA Worldwide network. Currently, the unit has billings of $75 million from HMC. The pairing of HMC's healthcare experience with TBWA's global reach will be a boon to clients, Mr. Lee said. The new unit comes as marketers strive to "parlay their research and development to a much wider geography." Previously, HMC only served clients on a national level.


Mr. Lee believes TBWA's creative and strategic prowess will enhance the process of shepherding a new drug brand to market.

Clients "want to build the total brand experience," said Bob Kuperman, TBWA Worldwide president-CEO of the Americas. "We can offer a more complete picture of the total life cycle of the brand."

TBWA/Chiat/Day's new division emerges as DTC spending booms. Marketers spent a whopping $1.8 billion in the DTC arena last year. In 1997, that figure was $1 billion. TV spending swelled to $1.1 billion in 1999, up from $309.6 million in 1997, according to IMS Health. The growth came after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration loosened its restrictions on broadcast advertising in August 1997.


In addition to an increase in spending, pharmaceutical manufacturers have also shifted focus to seek out more creative campaigns. Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, recently tapped actor Wayne Knight, better known as the noisome Newman on "Seinfeld," to play "the flu" in a humorous campaign for the inhalant Relenza.

Pfizer, which also took a more creative route with its advertising recently, stepped outside of its agency roster to tap Deutsch, New York, for its allergy medicine, Zyrtec. In contrast to typical allergy medicine ads -- which feature nature shots of green fields -- Deutsch created an offbeat, b&w image campaign for the drug last spring.

"We recognized the fact that drug manufacturers are looking for consumer-minded or consumer-oriented campaigns," Mr. Kuperman said. "Most drug companies realize they have to do more advertising that's interesting and breakthrough in order to reach the consumer."

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