Leo Burnett has won lead creative duties on Pfizer's planned over-the-counter version of Nexium.
Leo Burnett's Chicago, London, Paris and Berlin offices all participated in a pitch for the OTC business, with support from Publicis Healthcare Communications Group. The other finalist was Omnicom Group's TBWA, which pitched out of its New York office, said sources.
Leo Burnett will lead the account from its Chicago headquarters, but the agency will handle Nexium globally.
Pfizer is hoping to start selling a U.S. over-the-counter version of the prescription-only drug in early 2014, after spending $250 million dollars last year to buy the global rights to market an OTC version from AstraZeneca—Nexium's manufacturer. The FDA must approve the sale of a nonprescription version of the drug in the U.S.
Prilosec, a similar drug produced by AstraZeneca, has long been available as an OTC option in the U.S., marketed by Procter & Gamble.
AstraZeneca spent more than $20 million marketing the prescription version of Nexium across U.S. media in 2011, according to estimates from Kantar.
Advertisements for OTC drugs, which are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, are not subject to the same stringent rules as commercials for prescription drugs, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
The selection of Burnett for the Nexium assignment also follows a global review of Pfizer's creative accounts that resulted this past fall in a move to consolidate all of its assignments at holding companies WPP, Omnicom and Publicis.
"Leo Burnett's track record of being a strategic and creative partner to big consumer brands, coupled with their demonstrated passion, smarts and creativity makes them the right partner to help us take Nexium over the counter," said Brian Groves, Pfizer's chief marketing officer for consumer health, in a memo to Leo Burnett employees obtained by Adweek.
"This tremendous opportunity will take advantage of our unbeatable integrated offering and fills the consumer health opening in our portfolio," said Burnett CEO Tom Bernardin in the same memo. "We believe this is just the beginning for us with Pfizer."