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New assignment for Excedrin is awarded to Bozell -- Move Could Presage New Push for Product By Bristol-Myers Squibb and Signal Bad News for DDB

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After dangling its Excedrin brand in front of its agencies for more than a year, Bristol-Myers Squibb has given Bozell the green light to produce the latest Excedrin advertising.
Although DDB handles creative and strategic planning for Excedrin, the client, which has made a habit out of pitting its agencies against one another in creative shootouts, has been continuously soliciting creative work on Excedrin from Bozell, incumbent DDB, and possibly LCF&L and J. Walter Thompson, said sources close to the New York-based pharmaceuticals company.
While Bristol took Excedrin media buying in-house earlier this year, DDB has remained the official agency on the brand.
"As far as we're concerned, we are the official agency for Excedrin," said Tony Wright, DDB's executive vp/group account director on the Bristol business. He would not discuss the client/agency relationship further.
However, Kathleen O'Hare, a Bristol marketing director, last week confirmed that the company recently gave Bozell the go ahead to produce a new commercial for Excedrin. She would not comment on whether Bristol intended to move the account there permanently.
However, sources said that Bristol is finally nearing a decision about where to house Excedrin, and the Bozell project could be the prelude to an agency shift.
Bozell got the assignment from Bristol after its work scored best in a copy-testing process, which Bristol constantly conducts for both existing campaigns and new ones.
In fact, the company relies almost entirely on copy-testing scores when determining agency relationships, said one source.
"If one commercial tests below a certain score, then it goes into a quasi-review," said one source close to the client. "So you could be constantly pitching a piece of business that you already have. You are constantly defending your own turf."
DDB at one point was even eliminated from the Excedrin copy-testing process before a later reinstatement, said one source.
Handing Bozell new work could underscore Bristol's interest in revitalizing the aspirinbased pain reliever. The brand has experienced a sales decline of late in the face of stiff competition from brands such as Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol. It has also suffered while the market moves away from aspirin-based pain relievers in favor of ibuprofen-based products like American Home Products' Advil and Bristol's own Nuprin brand.
Bristol has allowed Excedrin to lie virtually dormant at DDB, with spending levels slipping to a paltry $90,000 in 1992, according to LNA/Arbitron.
The company instead has been throwing most of its weight behind more promising line extensions like Excedrin P.M., which got about $12 million in ad support via DDB in 1992, reported LNA.
One source said Bozell's spot is based on the concept of an "Excedrinly bad headache," but given the number of concepts the agencies have pitched, it's unclear whether that line is the one under development.
DDB has seen its Bristol billings wither away. The $10 million Clairol Loving Care account and the $7 million Nice 'N Easy business were moved within a few months from DDB to JWT/N.Y.
DDB also lost out in pitches for two Excedrin line extensions. One was Excedrin IB, an ibuprofen based brand, that Bozell worked on during its launch early last year. The other was Excedrin Dual-an analgesic/antacid, which went to LCF&L.
While DDB's Excedrin P.M. work is believed to be testing well, that business could be vulnerable should Bristol move Excedrin, since the company has indicated to its agencies that eventually it plans to winnow its agency roster so fewer shops share more billings, said one source close to the client.
Bristol already eliminated Saatchi & Saatchi from its roster last December when it moved Theragran vitamins to JWT.
Should a consolidation happen, JWT, Bozell and LCF&L, which have been picking up the most business, will likely survive, sources said.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)