GSK Reviews U.S. Media Duties on $1.4 Billion Account

Incumbent WPP's MediaCom Expected to Defend

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NEW YORK ( -- Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline is prepping a review of U.S. media duties on its massive $1.4 billion account.

Sarah Alspach, director of U.S. corporate media, told Ad Age the company "over the next several months" will undertake a review of its planning and buying business in the U.S., which will include the consumer health-care and pharmaceutical businesses. GSK ranks No. 18 on Ad Age's 100 Leading National Advertisers report, with more than $1.4 billion in U.S. ad spending.

According to executives with knowledge of the situation, GSK will be sending out RFI's this week.

WPP's MediaCom, which recently retained the U.K. portion of the business, referred calls to the client. But according to executives with knowledge of the situation, MediaCom was asked to defend the business and is expected to do so.

The review is being handled by search consultancy Ark Advisors, according to people with knowledge of the situation. Ark did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

This move follows a recent European media review in which GSK shifted some assignments away from MediaCom to Publicis Groupe's Starcom, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal. But it's the first time GSK has reviewed the U.S. portion of its advertising account in nearly a decade.

The company produces and markets consumer health-care products including Aquafresh, Alli, Geritol, Nicorette, Nytol, Super Poligrip and Tums. Some of its prescription medicines include Flonase, Valtrex and Zantac. In late July GSK reported more than $10 billion in sales for the second quarter of 2010 and more than $22 billion for the first half of the year.

MediaCom has seen business shift in and out of the agency in recent months. Another major client, Diageo, recently put its $130 million U.S. planning and buying account up for review for the first time since 2001 when the shop originally won the business. And last month, Lifetime Entertainment Services shifted its digital and traditional media account, worth nearly $40 million, from MediaCom to independent shop Horizon Media without a review.

In July, however, MediaCom picked up the $100 million Travelers media account, also without a review.

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