Usually when two companies like Pfizer and Warner-Lambert merge,
the first question is: which one will come out on top? But in the case
of these two drug giants, the answer is already clear. Pfizer’s
chairman, William Steere, will head the new conglomerate. The new group
will be run out of Pfizer’s headquarters in New York and it will be
Not much argument there.
The next question - for the advertising industry at least - is how the
new regime feels about agencies.
At this early stage - the ink is not yet dry on the dollars 90 billion
deal - official word is that it is ’too soon to tell’.
That said, however, there will be some clues for those who look.
After the merger, the new Pfizer, valued at a cool dollars 140 billion,
will own seven so-called blockbuster drugs - each with sales above
dollars 1 billion - including Pfizer’s high-profile anti-impotence drug,
Viagra, and Warner-Lambert’s cholesterol-lowering preparation, Lipitol.
Added to this are a collection of over-the-counter brands, such as
Pfizer’s TCP range and Warner-Lambert’s Schick razors, Trident gum,
Listerine mouthwash and Certs.
Historically, Warner-Lambert has kept most of its advertising, where
possible, to two networks - Bates Worldwide and J. Walter Thompson.
Pfizer, too, has had its favourites. For example, it has used the
healthcare specialists, Cline Davis & Man in New York and Paling Walters
Targis in London, for Viagra. But - and this is the key - observers have
noticed a change in tack at Pfizer in recent months.
The reason is the phenomenal growth of a new type of campaign in America
- advertising prescription-only drugs direct to the patient.
It began as an experiment just over two years ago, when the Federal
Drugs Authority relaxed its rules to allow drugs companies to advertise
prescription-only medications for the first time. It went on to be a
During those two years, drugs companies dug into their pockets for nigh
on dollars 2 billion in extra media spend as they sought to find out
what this new-found freedom could do for them.
Unsurprisingly, what they found was increased sales, lots of them. Even
better, it brought about a revolution in thinking at drugs
Suddenly, their market was not a few harassed doctors who were too busy
to watch TV, but every man, woman and child in the country.
Pfizer responded by putting its popular anti-allergy treatment, Zyrtec,
out for review. Not to a bunch of little-known healthcare specialists,
but to the likes of McCann-Erickson, Ogilvy & Mather, and the eventual
winner, Deutsch. It followed by tossing the next big drug in its
pipeline - the migraine preparation, Relpax - to D’Arcy, another
Prescription-only advertising is still illegal over here, of course.
But its forerunner, so-called symptom-advertising, is alive and
Symptom advertising is where commercials raise awareness about a
condition so that consumers realise it is treatable with drugs. Without
mentioning names, the ad then directs them to see their doctors.
Following profitable exercises for Novartis and Pharmacia & Upjohn,
Procter & Gamble is looking to publicise osteoporosis, while Pfizer is
on the lookout for an agency to do the same for Viagra (Campaign, last
week). One thing is clear, Pfizer is looking for a multinational,
mainstream agency. The question is, will Bates and JWT be on the