New Drug to Get $100 Mil. Push

NEW YORK — Four agencies are contending in an estimated $100 million creative review for a new prescription drug from Novartis, sources said.

The drug, with the working names “Zelmac” and “Zelnorm,” is for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Its generic name is “tegaserod.”

Sources said the four New York-based finalists are Interpublic Group’s McCann-Erickson and Deutsch; Cline, Davis & Mann, a healthcare agency owned by Omnicom; and WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather. Ogilvy sister shop MindShare, New York, handles Novartis media.

Sources said the client reached out to select shops and is not using a consultant. Executives at the agencies referred calls to Novartis. The client was unavailable for comment.

Agencies were briefed three weeks ago, a source said.

A round of strategy sessions between the client and shops begins this week. Final strategic and creative pitches are expected in mid-July, with a decision coming shortly afterward, sources said.

Deborah Dick-Rath, Novartis’ executive director of global advertising, who is running the review, was a key player in Novartis’ recent media-consolidation review, won by MindShare in January. She could not be reached last week.

The direct-to-consumer category has been one of the hottest ad categories in the past few years, particularly in the area of media-consolidation reviews, as marketers rushed to take advantage of relaxed rules governing direct-to-consumer advertising. In the past year, more than $1.5 billion in media and creative billings have been put into review or assigned by pharmaceutical advertisers such as GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough and Novartis.

Pending FDA approval, a direct-to-consumer campaign could launch next year, said a source. Last year, the FDA rejected several Novartis drug proposals, including Xolair, an asthma drug, and Zomaril, a schizophrenia drug.

Novartis’ roster shops include Havas’ Arnold McGrath, which handles Thera-flu, an over-the-counter cold medicine; Grey, which has Maalox, an antacid; and IPG’s Lowe, which has Lamisil, an anti-fungal medication. Other roster shops include Publicis’ New York and Chicago offices, which have Ciba (contact-lens products) and Triaminic (cough syrup), respectively.

Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis has its U.S. offices in New York and East Hanover, N.J.