DDB shop gets J&J's Procrit

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Johnson & Johnson is quietly consolidating an estimated $50 million-plus account for blockbuster drug Procrit at DDB Worldwide network shop Anderson Advertising, Toronto, replacing Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide's OgilvyOne, New York.

The move appears to be driven by an executive change on the Procrit brand at J&J's Ortho Biotech division, executives said. Anderson, primarily a health-care agency, handled a small portion of the consumer-targeted Procrit advertising but now is poised to reap the benefits of an expected acceleration in U.S. direct-to-consumer spending as Procrit faces new competition.

Ogilvy worked on the lion's share of the business, promoting Procrit's effectiveness in treating anemia caused by chemotherapy. Anderson had worked on ads targeting anemia stemming from HIV/AIDS treatments, a smaller business for Procrit.

J&J has the marketing rights from manufacturer Amgen for the drug. Now, Amgen is mounting a challenge on its own with a new drug, Aranesp, that won't have Procrit's brand recognition but is expected to be just as effective and require fewer dosages.

An Ogilvy executive and a spokesman for Omnicom Group's Anderson declined to comment. A call to a J&J spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

The account shift is a surprise for several reasons, most notably the much-talked-about quality of the creative work from WPP Group's OgilvyOne and the brand's success.

OgilvyOne, which has made a series of commercials for the drug since it took on the business in 1997, was much heralded in the industry for its creative work on the brand. One of the most notable TV spots featured an emotional vignette of an older woman unable to sew her daughter's wedding dress because of fatigue caused by anemia, a common chemotherapy side effect. But Procrit's ability to raise a red blood cell count and boost energy then provides her with newfound strength and the viewer observes her later dancing enthusiastically at the wedding.

Sales for Procrit have risen at a strong clip and have been routinely cited by J&J as a growth driver. Company figures show a nearly 50% sales jump from $1.2 billion in 1999 to $1.8 billion last year.

Another surprising aspect to the move is Procrit is believed to be the only major DTC account managed by an agency outside the U.S. DTC, a $2.5 billion a year industry, is largely an American phenomenon.

Despite the account loss, Ogilvy's health-care practice is still among the top-tier DTC shops, handling such blue-chip accounts as arthritis drug Remicade-also marketed by J&J-Merck & Co.'s Zocor and GlaxoSmithKline's Advair.

Procrit serves as a microcosm for how experimental pharmaceutical companies have become at using DTC since the drug treats not a primary condition but a side effect. J&J executives reasoned physicians were often so focused on arresting the cancer that they paid less attention to the painful side effects of the chemo treatment. As a result, the company aimed to use DTC ads to persuade both sufferers and their family members-who may be overwhelmed or intimidated-to ask the doctor about the drug.

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