Health and consumer-care giant Johnson & Johnson has been meeting with its global roster of media shops in recent days to conduct what amounts to performance assessments for the past three years. Moreover, J&J is holding "vision checks" concerning how those agencies will handle their assignments moving into the future, according to sources.
The client's global media spending is about $3 billion, a full third of that spent in the U.S. market.
The activity constitutes a "pre-review," said sources, where incumbents are basically being asked to defend their work and present plans for optimizing performance in the years to come.
They stopped short of saying that J&J has launched a review or series of reviews -- but said such moves were possible in short order.
At this stage, only roster shops are involved in the process and those agencies are not yet permitted to make pitches for duties beyond their existing assignments, per sources. If the client likes what it hears during initial presentations that might be the end of the matter. But if J&J is dissatisfied with the incumbent presentations, it would likely call pitches for one or more regions, per sources.
"Nothing is certain at this point," said a source familiar with the situation. "They could keep it the way it is or invite other agencies to pitch."
The incumbent shops either declined comment or didn't return calls. A J&J rep could not be immediately reached.
The client last conducted a review of its global account three years ago. Traditional planning and buying duties in North America were retained by Interpublic Group's Universal McCann, which put together an entity called J3 to access other IPG resources as needed to service the assignment. U.S. spending alone exceeds $1 billion. (Omnicom's OMD had handled a piece of domestic buying and traditional planning business, including $300 million in print spending, which was consolidated under J3.)
In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the client named Aegis Group's Carat its regional lead agency. (IPG's Initiative was the incumbent for most of Europe, the single biggest piece of business in J&J's EMEA region.) OMD added duties for Asia-Pacific; it also won chores in Latin America that had been handled by Initiative. UM picked up work in Japan and other Asian markets.
In a switch from past practice, J&J also broke out communication planning as a separate media assignment and awarded North American duties to three shops: independent Naked, WPP Group's JWT and IPG's Sandbox, an entity specifically created to handle those chores. Earlier this month, however, Sandbox was folded and the J&J assignment was absorbed by J3 and IPG creative shops.