GSK Consolidates Global Roster with 9 Agencies Across 4 Holding Companies

By Erik Oster 

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the pharmaceutical behemoth which paid out what was then the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history in 2012, followed up last year’s media review (itself resulting from the $20 billion joint venture deal in which GSK absorbed Norvartis’ consumer brands) with a review of global advertising, marketing and PR for all its brands.

This week, GSK concluded that review by consolidating with nine agencies: Advertising will be handled by Grey, Saatchi & Saatchi and Weber Shandwick; GSK’s digital account will be split between WPP Digital, Havas and Weber Shandwick; Content marketing goes to WPP Digital, Havas, Edelman and Weber Shandwick, with the latter two agencies also handling PR; McCann Health and Ogilvy Commonwealth will handle expert marketing, while Geometery will be responsible for shopper marketing. 

“We will tailor agency capability category-by- category to meet their unique business needs to more effectively reach consumers with the brands,” GSK said in a statement. “The transition to the new model will take place over a period of time and we are currently working through the specific allocations of work by area and brand.”

According to The Drum, the review included the four holding companies previously working with GSK: Omicom, Havas, Publicis and WPP, resulting in Publicis and WPP ultimately splitting most of the assignments. Since WPP previously “almost owned the  majority” of GSK’s advertising and marketing accounts and was seeking to keep Publicis off the roster, The Drum characterized the consolidation as something of a loss for the holding company. More About Advertising, however, characterized WPP as “the biggest winner” in the review, while pointing out that Omnicom’s DDB and TBWA and CHI/The&Partnership lost work on sports nutrition range Maxinutrition, which spends nearly $1 billion domestically, according to the publication. 

In the U.S., meanwhile, the big winner agencies appear to be McCann (which won expert marketing) and Grey, which retained all four of the “global power brands” it held going into the review  — Sensodyne, Poligrip, Parodontax and Panadol — while adding Otrivin. The two remaining such brands, Theraflu and Voltaren, remain with Saatchi & Saatchi, which won work on the then Novartis brands back in December of 2004.

An internal memo sent out this morning by Grey CEO and chairman Jim Heekin reads, “We now serve 5 out of 7 of GSK’s most important global brands including Sensodyne, Poligrip, Parodontax and Panadol. This is a tremendous vote of confidence in our partnership that began in 1955.”