Campaign report on healthcare:

Top healthcare clients - Consumer healthcare marketers are a powerful breed, and they can prove difficult to pin down. Here’s a chance to get to know five of the industry’s biggest movers and shakers, says James Curtis.


Director, Business Group Consumer Care, Bayer

Patrick Johnson is a well-known and respected marketer in the healthcare

sector, with a reputation for freshening up tired brands. He is the man

holding the marketing purse strings for Bayer in the UK, overseeing an

annual adspend of pounds 4.8 million (MMS). Brands under Johnson’s

control include the hangover cure, Alka-Seltzer, Autan insect repellent

and Canesten thrush treatment.

His skill at reinvigorating brands is best demonstrated in the cases of

Alka-Seltzer, which he shook up with the launch of Alka-Seltzer XS, and

Canesten, which he transformed from a prescription-only drug to a

powerful over-the-counter (OTC) brand. Two of his better-known TV ads -

the tequila worm for Alka-Seltzer XS and the thrush-suffering vicar for

Canesten Combi - show that Johnson has a deft consumer touch. Having

come from Bristol-Myers six years ago, where he worked in

business-to-business pharmaceuticals, he has honed this skill while at


’Very few marketers in this sector have tapped into consumer values like

he has,’ says an agency associate who works closely with Johnson. With

Canesten being sold OTC, this now accounts for pounds 32 million of the

brand’s pounds 40 million total sales. The launch of Alka-Seltzer XS has

helped to boost the brand’s sales by 24 per cent. A member of his team

at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, which works on Alka-Seltzer, says: ’He

realised the brand was too broad-based and multi-functional so came up

with XS as a specific hangover cure aimed at the under-35s. He made it a

lot more fun.’

You can tell that his agency teams at Euro RSCG Healthcare and AMV enjoy

working with him, saying he’s ’a good laugh’ and ’mad about Everton’.

However, he also has a reputation for being tough, blunt and not

suffering fools gladly.


1980-1983 Kimberly-Clark

1983-1994 general manager UK/Ireland, Bristol-Myers Squibb. Previous

roles included sales and marketing director UK and general manager,

European distributor markets. Launched Mr Muscle range of household

cleaners. Other brands included Clairol Hair Care and Mum deodorant

1994-present director, business group consumer care, Bayer.

Responsibilities included the UK and Ireland, where he is the general

manager of the OTC medicines division


General manager, Novartis Consumer Health Nordic

Last October, Novartis Consumer Health’s UK marketing director, Joe

Heron, was promoted to general manager for the company across

Scandinavia. James Ball took over in the UK.

Although no longer directly in charge of the UK market, Heron’s

impressive track record at Novartis means he remains one of the most

respected figures in the healthcare sector and he has left his mark on

the UK business.

The straight-talking, charismatic South African is also a popular figure

in the business.

In the 18 months he spent in the UK marketing director’s job, Heron

energised the company’s brand portfolio - including Savlon, Nicotinell,

Tixylix and ExLax - with a fast-track programme of innovation. According

to a Euro RSCG insider who worked closely with him, Heron’s appetite for

product development was unprecedented: ’Novartis had hardly launched a

thing before Joe came along, then in less than two years he launched

about 30 products. He’s got unbelievable energy and is great at spotting


Savlon plasters and Nicotinell lozenges are two examples of ideas that

helped invigorate sales - in the case of Savlon, it put the 40-year-old

brand into double-digit growth. Overall, OTC sales for Novartis were up

15 per cent for 1999.

Heron explains his approach: ’I just took a lateral view of what each

brand was about. For example, once you agree that Nicotinell is about

smoking cessation support and is not some kind of silver bullet, you can

do different things with it. If you always play by the same rules, why

should you expect different results?’ He is a self-confessed advocate of

the ’fast and messy’ school of product development - getting as many new

products as you can on to the market and not being afraid of


Heron is also very good at scoring victories over the competition with

less spend. For example, while SmithKline Beecham invested heavily in a

helpline to support NiQuitin, Heron teamed up with the charity, Quit, on

a helpline for Nicotinell.

The deal was not only significantly cheaper, but also gave the brand

added credibility. This, Heron says, was an example of ’good innovation

doing more with less’. Making effective use of PR, ambient media,

sponsorship and press, Heron built a 50 per cent market share for

Nicotinell in the patch market.

As an ex-agency man - he worked with Ogilvy & Mather in Johannesburg -

Heron is known for working closely with his account teams and respecting

their opinions. ’Agencies are seriously underrated as business

consultants,’ he says.


Jan 1987-Feb 1988 account executive, Ogilvy & Mather RS-T&M South


Mar 1988-July 1991 account director, The White House (DDB Needham),

South Africa

Aug 1991-Jun 1995 national marketing manager, South Africa,

Bristol-Myers Squibb

Jul 1995-Dec 1998 director, external development EMEA, Bristol-Myers


Jan 1999-Oct 1999 marketing director/OTC SBU head, Novartis Consumer

Health UK

Oct 1999-present general manager, Novartis Consumer Health Nordic


Marketing director, OTC Brands, SmithKline Beecham

Since she has been in charge of SmithKline Beecham’s OTC portfolio,

Helen Leighton claims to have arrested declining sales and achieved 14

per cent growth. Considering many of the brands under her control are

long-established names such as Night Nurse, Panadol and Beechams, this

is no mean feat.

She oversees a pounds 25 million marketing budget, advertising Night

Nurse and Beechams through Grey, and NiQuitin CQ through Ogilvy &

Mather. The latter is a new nicotine patch, launching in Europe after

strong sales in the US. It is one of SB’s ’big bets’ - a strategy that

involves a concentrated marketing push behind one brand. Leighton has

good reason to bet on NiQuitin CQ this year - twice as many people as

normal are expected to have tried to give up smoking for the new


As well as big bets, Leighton divides her sprawling portfolio into

’power brands’ - such as Panadol, Beechams and Oxy - and ’foundation

brands’, including Andrews and Milk of Magnesia. Most marketing effort

goes behind the power brands that can drive overall sales.

As this strategic approach implies, Leighton is known as an astute and

skillful marketer. She is also praised for having lots of ideas and

being open to suggestions from her teams. ’She’s good at feeding off

others and has been successful at pushing a lot of innovation through,’

says an agency executive who knows her well. Another associate backs

this up: ’The company has been through a lot of reorganisation, which

always makes getting new products off the ground difficult. In that

respect, Helen’s record on launches and innovation is impressive.’

NiQuitin CQ is an innovation she is clearly proud of. It includes a

personalised stop-smoking plan - a tactic that Leighton has researched

to be more effective than the one-cure-fits-all approach of the

competition. Despite this consumer-friendly USP, Leighton stresses the

importance of communicating the scientific benefits of her products.

’It’s a question of balancing consumer insights with scientific claims

and SB has always prided itself on being science driven,’ she says.

Not all of Leighton’s time is spent thinking about cold remedies and

nicotine patches, however. She is a keen catamaran racer and recently

returned from a competition in the Caribbean.


Degree in pharmacy, Nottingham University

Sales representative and marketing trainee, Janssen Pharmaceuticals

Product manager, Bayer (Ciproxin)

International product manager, Abbott Labs (US) and Glaxo (UK)

Consumer product manager, Glaxo (Beconase Hayfever)

Management consultancy, Coopers & Lybrand

Marketing director, OTC brands, SmithKline Beecham


Group managing director, corporate development, SSL International

With a marketing budget of pounds 70 million and in charge of a brand

with which millions are on intimate terms, Dieno George is a powerful


The 43-year-old group managing director of SSL International counts

Durex - the world’s best-selling condom - as one of the brands in his


Although his title suggests he is not the main marketing man at SSL -

which, among other brands, owns the Dr Scholl footcare range - George is

a marketer by training and ultimately he calls the shots. Officially,

his responsibilities cover business development, marketing, acquisitions

and joint ventures.

He has healthcare marketing in his blood, having worked his way up

through Stafford-Miller and Reckitt & Colman. He has not only survived

the mergers of Seton Healthcare with Scholl in 1998 and then Seton

Scholl with the maker of Durex, London International Group, to form SSL

International in 1999, but has been promoted throughout. He is credited

with being one of the key brains behind the Seton Scholl merger with LIG

and is being groomed for the chief executive’s job at the new group - a

position that would put him in charge of a global business with pounds

700 million sales.

George’s self-deprecating manner and distinctive Scouse accent are said

to be among his most effective business tools. ’He puts people at ease,

but his manner hides a first-class brain,’ a colleague says. As a

student, he gained firsts at Liverpool University and Middlesex Business

School - achievements he is keen to point out. However, his business

track record is not too bad either - such as increasing Seton

Healthcare’s profits from pounds 2 million to pounds 24 million during

his time in charge.

If he does become chief executive, agencies working for SSL - including

McCann-Erickson, which handles Durex - can expect George to stay close

to brand strategy. As one associate says: ’He’s very good at combining

delegation with keeping control of the key commercial levers.’


1977-1982 Unilever Research

1982-1984 marketing manager, Stafford-Miller (UK subsidiary of Block

Drug, USA)

1984 -1985 marketing manager and then international new-business

director, Reckitt & Colman

1986-1988 group marketing director, then managing director, then deputy

chief executive, Seton Healthcare Group

1998-1999 managing director, UK & group marketing, Seton Scholl


1999-present group managing director, corporate development, SSL



Managing director, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare

At 35, Andrew Tasker has wasted no time getting to the top at Pfizer

Consumer Healthcare. His appointment in April 1999 seemed surprising,

not only because of his age, but also because he came from outside the

healthcare mainstream. For the previous six years, he was on the contact

lens side of OTC, first with Allergan and then Bausch & Lomb. However,

jobs at Crookes Healthcare and Marion Merrell Dow gave him a broader

knowledge of consumer healthcare than his stint in optical implies.

Tasker is seen as the man with the energy to spearhead a Pfizer attack

on the OTC market. It is relatively small in this sector now, with sales

of pounds 22-25 million. Its best-known OTC brand is TCP.

Adapting prescription drugs for the OTC sector is going to be key to

this, although it is doubtful this could be achieved with Pfizer’s most

famous drug, Viagra. It has scored one notable success with this

strategy with the thrush treatment, Diflucan, which competes with

Bayer’s Canesten.

Pfizer has invested pounds 180 million on R&D for the UK market and is

looking to Tasker to leverage its investment by launching more consumer

brands. ’Our ethos is not to look for me-toos, but for genuinely

innovative products,’ he says.

With a spend of about pounds 5 million - mostly through M&C Saatchi with

TCP - Tasker is not a huge advertiser, but that will no doubt change

given Pfizer’s aggressive plans. This year there will be a TV campaign

for Diflucan and a poster and radio push for TCP, which, he says, will

be ’a strategic breakthrough’.

As a man whose work rate is said to be prodigious, Tasker looks like he

will be quickly raising Pfizer’s, and his own, profile in the consumer



1984-1986 business trainee, Touche Ross

1986-1989 product manager, Procter & Gamble

1989-1991 senior product manager, Crookes Healthcare

1991-1993 group product manager, Marion Merrell Dow

1993-1995 marketing manager, north-west Europe, Allergan

1995-1996 optical director, Allergan

1996-1997 commercial director, Bausch & Lomb UK

1997-1999 European advertising/media director, Bausch & Lomb

April 1999 managing director, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.