Walgreens Reaches Out to Agencies for Creative Ideas

Pharma Chain Has Long Worked With Omnicom Group's Downtown Partners

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Pharmacy chain Walgreens is reaching out beyond its lead creative agency, Chicago-based Downtown Partners, for creative and branding help, Ad Age has learned.

"Over the next 90 days, we look forward to hearing from the wide range of agencies we've already identified, including our current partners, on how we'll extend our vision," Walgreens said in a statement to Ad Age . Downtown Partners declined to comment.

Credit: AP

According to industry executives, a request-for-information document circulated to a number of agencies by the Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens sought information "regarding integrated advertising agency capabilities." It's possible that the marketer might retain Downtown Partners and be looking for additional creative help. The review does not include multicultural or media services, or digital-media planning or buying.

Omnicom Group-owned Downtown Partners is the lead broadcast agency for Walgreens and has handled the account -- easily one of its biggest -- since 2004. Earlier this week the agency took home the Illinois Lottery business, which was formerly at EnergyBBDO, after a review.

Digital marketing for Walgreens is handled by Publicis Groupe 's Digitas. Sibling shop Arc Worldwide, part of Leo Burnett, works on the chain's "Way to well" program, which encompasses cause marketing, among other work. Its media agency, Starcom USA, is also owned by Publicis Groupe .

Walgreen Co.is among the top 75 largest national advertisers, according to Ad Age 's DataCenter. It spent about $187 million on U.S. measured media from January through October, according to Kantar. The retailer in 2010 spent about $212 million, down from $228 million the prior year.

The move comes after Walgreens in September reorganized its merchandising and marketing teams, a move that eliminated the CMO position, which was held by Kim Feil.

It also follows some drama the chain has been experiencing in the social-media realm. Walgreens is at a point where it may need to be more aggressive about its marketing in the wake of the company's dissolved relationship with Express Scripts, its former pharmacy-benefit manager. Walgreens has been at risk of losing customers to rivals CVS and Walmart Stores, who still have relationships with Express Scripts.

The pharmacy chain has been paying Twitter and bloggers in an effort to promote itself since the relationship ended -- which resulted because the two could not come to an agreement on a new contract -- but its paid #ILoveWalgreens promoted tweet, for instance, drew some backlash.

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