Power Players 2009

GSK's Andrew Witty Is Ad Age's No. 15 Power Player

Swine Flu (Maybe You've Heard of It) Propels Drug Maker

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Last Year
THE POWER: Forget Pfizer's mega-merger with Wyeth that solidified its position as the world's No. 1 pharmaceutical company. Now the most important man in health care and pharmaceuticals works at No.2: GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty. Mr. Witty, 45, was named CEO almost two years ago, an appointment that raised some eyebrows within the industry and the company from some who thought the top spot would go to a more experienced GSK soldier. But he is known as a motivator and a visionary, and now he looks like a genius -- he took a $3.2 billion gamble that swine flu would become more prevalent around the world, and GSK's current vaccines for the flu have netted the company an estimated $4.8 billion in return. So far.

THE NUMBERS: GSK's shares had been in a six-year decline when Mr. Witty took over in 2007, and, although shares bottomed out at $27.27 in March , the stock was back trading above $40 last week. Measured media spending for 2008 was $878 million, and for the first half, spending dropped 27% to $392 million.

THE KEY LIEUTENANTS: Deirdre Connelly, president, GSK's North American Pharmaceuticals, is a direct report. John Clarke, president, worldwide consumer health care, oversees GSK's growing consumer/over-the-counter products. Tim Wright is president of the Future Group, a five-headed monster at GSK that divides up global marketing.

THE CHALLENGE: Swine flu isn't going to last forever. So Glaxo has to fall back to its research and development team, and, like most every Big Pharma company in the world, its pipeline isn't the greatest. But GSK continues to develop its consumer goods, including such brands as weight-loss pill Alli, smoking-cessation aid Nicorette and toothpaste AquaFresh.

THE AGENCIES: GSK's biggest drug is the prescription asthma medication Advair, which receives between $150 million and $200 million in marketing support each year, followed by other DTC products that include erectile-dysfunction drug Levitra and enlarged prostate medication Avodart. The DTC shops include Interpublic's McCann, WPP's Grey and Havas' Tonic. On the professional marketing side, GSK does a lot of work with Interpublic, particularly Torre Lazur.

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