Pfizer’s Nexium Goes to Grey as Pharma Giant Consolidates Its Agency Roster

By Patrick Coffee 

The world’s second largest pharmaceutical company Pfizer has further consolidated its agency roster by moving the Nexium account to Grey after a review.

Leo Burnett won the business in early 2013, beating out TBWA\Chiat\Day New York in a review that involved more than 200 people in its Chicago, London, Paris and Berlin offices. At the time, Pfizer was transitioning the heartburn medication from prescription-only to over the counter status.

Grey and Leo Burnett both declined to comment on today’s news, and a client rep wrote, “We won’t comment on rumor and speculation.”


But several sources confirmed that the business went to Grey, which will almost certainly run the account out of its New York office. The WPP shop currently handles several Pfizer brands including Advil, Robitussin, EmergenC and Advil Cold. All went into one of Grey’s five major “portfolio groups” when they were established last year.

In 2012, Pfizer announced plans to consolidate all of its global marketing business with the three biggest holding companies. Many speculated that its proposed $160 billion merger with Allergan would have required even more such moves, but the company cancelled that deal early this year when it ran up against an Obama administration regulation designed to kill “tax-dodging corporate mergers.

We hear that Pfizer will continue working with Publicis and Leo Burnett outside the U.S. In May, Campaign reported that the company was seeking a new global creative lead for Viagra. There have been no subsequent updates on that brand, which remains with BBDO domestically.

The company spent $66 million promoting the Nexium brand in the United States in 2015 and $27.8 million in the first half of this year.

Several law firms have attempted to launch class action lawsuits accusing Pfizer and other drug makers of false advertising after a January 2016 study linked Nexium and its “proton pump inhibitor” rivals Prilosec and Prevacid to kidney disease.

Leo Burnett Chicago produced this holiday ad for the brand.