Incumbents Vye for Glaxo’s Business

The launch of GlaxoSmithKline’s $600 million media buying review was sparked by the union of two giant rivals with distinctly different ideas of how to handle media, sources said.

Glaxo Wellcome, said one source, advocated combined planning and buying, while SmithKline Beecham preferred to keep the two functions separate. Planning, however, will remain divided among the two entities’ former shops.

This focus on buying may allow Glaxo to avoid the internal struggles that have plagued Pfizer’s $800 million media consolidation.

The Glaxo search was expected after last year’s announcement of the merger of Glaxo Wellcome and Smith Kline Beecham [Adweek, July 17, 2000]. It was delayed, however, until the merger’s December completion.

In recent weeks, each contender has received an RFP that makes “government RFPs look easy,” said one source.

Vying for the Glaxo business are the two entities’ incumbent media shops, all in New York: Havas’ Media Planning; WPP’s The Media Edge; Grey Global Group’s MediaCom; and IPG’s Media Direct Partners.

When asked if the review was limited to buying due to differences over where planning should go, a Glaxo representative said, “We feel the greatest benefit comes from the concentrated buying clout of our two companies.”

Different conflicts within Pfizer, sources noted, have stalled a review the client told contenders would be over “in a matter of days” last summer.

The Pfizer review, launched after Pfizer acquired Warner-Lambert, pits Pfizer shop Carat against W-L incumbent MindShare, and Pfizer’s healthcare focus against W-L’s consumer orientation, sources said. The two have become “warring factions,” said one source.

The lesson has not been lost on Glaxo. “No way in heck is Glaxo going to allow [internal dissension to prolong the search],” said a source.

Glaxo presentations are set for later this month. A decision is expected by mid-March. KNE