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Embarking on a new identity as Novartis Corp., the now-unified Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz are close to reviewing their agency assignments.

The current roster for the over-the-counter pharmaceutical brands, receiving about $60 million in total ad support, includes these New York agencies: Publicis/Bloom, with Tavist, Thera-Flu and Triaminic; Grey Advertising, for Ex-Lax and Maalox; and Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, for Cruex, Desenex, Doan's and other smaller brands.

"We've got to make sure the agencies are in alignment with our strategic plan," said Lisa Gonzalez, VP-marketing for North America at Novartis.


She declined to specify timing but said the company was "in the process of gathering information," and didn't specify if non-roster shops will be invited to participate.

Ms. Gonzalez arrived at Novartis just three months ago from Glaxo Wellcome, where she helped launch acid blocker Zantac 75 and, prior to that, worked on allergy drug Sudafed.

"Our intention is to have strong global brands, both prescription and OTC, with a strong regional focus," said Ms. Gonzalez. "Our focus is on building brand equity, long-term business and the [research and development] pipe-line."

About $25 million is being spent on Maalox advertising while Triaminic received $5 million in support through October 1996, Tavist got $13.3 million and TheraFlu $4.6 million. Doan's received $6.1 million; Ex-Lax, $2.7 million; and Cruex, $1.2 million for that period.

"Maalox has begun to rebound and we are quite pleased with its recent performance; we're continuing to spend aggressively behind it," Ms. Gonzalez said.

New ads from Grey are set to break shortly, continuing the "One Minute Maalox" campaign begun last summer.

Last week, as part of the new focused strategy, Novartis put up for sale 14 of its smaller brands, including Acutrim, Allerest, Cal-decort, Fiberall and Sinarest.

All those brands were unassigned except Acutrim, which received $1.7 million in media through October last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting, via Jordan McGrath.


"A number of those brands are quite profitable but small," said Ms. Gonzalez. "We want to focus our energies on the megabrands."

Ciba Vision will continue to operate as a separate unit and will keep its name. Initial plans to change it to Novartis Vision have been dropped.

Novartis today launches a six-month worldwide $45 million campaign to introduce its new corporate name. The drive is from public relations agency Ruder-Finn, with media handled by CIA Medianetwork International, London.

About $8 million has been earmarked for the U.S.; print ads are getting the most emphasis with some TV support breaking in early February.

A company executive said brand recognition of the former Ciba and Sandoz names is in the 50% to 60% range, and Novartis hopes to reach that range for its new corporate moniker this year.

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