All 6 Major Agency Networks Invited to Pitch for GSK’s Global Media Account

The company spent more than $1 billion in the U.S. last year

PHD and GroupM were incumbents on the account Getty Images
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International pharmaceutical conglomerate GSK, or GlaxoSmithKline, has begun the process of reviewing its global media planning and buying business. Australian trade publication AdNews broke the news yesterday, and today a company representative confirmed the review to Adweek but did not provide additional information.

ID Comms is managing the process, according to multiple sources who also claim that all six major media agency networks (WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, Dentsu, Havas and IPG) have been invited to pitch. A representative for the firm declined to comment.

The news is not unexpected as it coincides with the conclusion of the three-year contracts signed with incumbent agencies PHD and MediaCom. The Omnicom and WPP networks went head-to-head for the account in 2015, with then-U.S. incumbent PHD expanding its remit to include media duties for Australia as well as social media and data-related work. MediaCom remained the company’s international agency of record.

That review also came as GSK acquired the health and vaccine portions of Novartis. Publicis Groupe’s Starcom, which had managed media for that company, sat out the 2015 review.

One year later, GSK went through an “agency simplification” in which the company consolidated its marketing work (aside from media) across a group of nine agencies from four different holding companies. Publicis and WPP were the big winners, with Saatchi & Saatchi and Grey winning creative work for GSK’s key brands like Theraflu, Voltaren and Otrivin. Havas expanded its relationship with the client by winning digital and content marketing work while IPG’s McCann Health and Weber Shandwick joined the roster for the first time.

According to parties with knowledge of the matter, this global undertaking has been in the works for some time; one source described the review, which officially started last week, as “nothing beyond process.”

While the review is not related to the recent departure of WPP CEO Martin Sorrell, it does come at a challenging time for the world’s largest advertising company, which is currently defending several major global accounts including Mars, Shell, Ford and HSBC.

An Omnicom Media Group representative declined to comment for this story. MediaCom has not yet responded to a related query.

GSK spends approximately $1 billion in paid media in the U.S. each year, and various estimates list its global media budget at more than twice that total. The London-based company has seen sales drop in recent quarters, and last year it announced plans to sell off some 130 “non-core” brands amid a larger round of staffing reductions around the world.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.