$100 Mil. Pharmaceutical Media Business in Play

Prescription-drug marketer AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals is in the early stages of planning a media buying consolidation, sources said. The combined account will be worth an estimated $100 million in billings.

The Wilmington, Del.-based client has quietly begun contacting its roster shops about a review and is developing a request for proposals to send to contenders, sources said.

It is not known whether outside agencies will be invited to participate in the consolidation search.

An AstraZeneca representative declined to comment on the report of a media consolidation review.

The bulk of the business will come from Nexium, the successor drug to the company’s successful heartburn product, Priolsec, which is the world’s best-selling prescription drug. Billings for Nexium are estimated at $40 million.

Sources said the review was prompted by the client’s desire to centralize its direct-to-consumer advertising efforts.

AstraZeneca, which markets more than 25 different drugs, including respiratory drug Accolate, the anesthetic Diprivan and the migraine-relief product Zomig, works with several medical shops as well as mainstream media agencies.

Zenith Media in New York won the Nexium account in April following a review that also included Omnicom Group media network Creative Media and SFM Media/Media Planning, both New York; and Los Angeles-based Initiative Media North America, the global media arm of Interpublic Group of Cos.

Creative Media handles AstraZeneca’s respiratory division.

The Atlanta-based consultancy Wanamaker Associates conducted the Nexium review, but it is not known at this time if the consultant will have a role in the consolidation process.

AstraZeneca, formed by the 1999 merger of England’s Zeneca Group, plc and Swedish drug marketer Astra AB, reported sales of nearly $8 billion, an increase of 8 percent in the first half of 2000 from a comparable period last year.