The Player: Kay seeks common language for global marketing effort

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As far as Andrew Kay is concerned, the marketing and advertising of Novartis pharmaceuticals is the same in the United Arab Emirates as it is in the United Kingdom and the United States.

"I truly believe that you cannot be a global marketing organization if you do not have a common worldwide platform," said Mr. Kay, VP-global sales and marketing for the Basel, Switzerland-based drug giant. "It took us almost two years to fine-tune this whole formula. We have the same planning systems, same language worldwide, so the global plans and local plans are completely synchronized with each other."

Mr. Kay, 49, joined Novartis in April 1999. Prior to his arrival, he honed his skills across the globe, working in the Middle East, Italy, the United States and the United Kingdom for Astra-Zeneca. He spent nearly a decade in top-level national and international marketing posts there, leading the company's pharmaceutical business-management and diagnostics divisions between 1997 and 1999. From 1991 to 1996, he served as Astra-Zeneca's head of international marketing, a post in which he oversaw the development of the company's strategic-marketing capability.

Despite the fact that pharmaceutical direct-to-consumer advertising is barely a half-dozen years old, Mr. Kay felt many of the marketing practices in the industry were outdated. By modeling his plan after that of several other blue-chip marketers, he transformed the company's approach to what marketing and advertising should be. Most of all, he felt it should be consistent.

"We looked at McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Nike and drew a lot of inspiration," he said. "Global consistency doesn't have to mean identical. In Europe for instance, Diet Coke is called Coke Light. Same product, different name. But the same marketing principles are there and that's what we have tried to do."

Novartis is the maker of well-known brands, including Thera-Flu, Triaminic, Maalox, Ex-Lax and Gerber baby products. Its DTC products include the irritable bowel syndrome treatment Zelnorm; the recently introduced Elidel, for exema; Diovan, for hypertension; and Lamisil, for footnail fungus, for which Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, New York, launched a campaign recently.

global dialogue

"The trend we clearly saw was, if you look at patient power growing and you look at the way patients were talking, it is clear pharmaceuticals was becoming a global dialogue," Mr. Kay said. "We're seeing groups internationally talking to each other. The medical journals are international. The FDA and European authorities are swapping information."

Novartis' marketing was built on that premise. "We will launch our brands and position them globally, but with different local tailoring," he said. "That's something we've sewn right into our formula."

Fast Facts

Name: Andrew Kay

Age: 49

Now: VP-global sales and marketing, Novartis

Challenge: To create a common global platform that can be tailored locally.

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