4 Pursue J&J’s Splenda

NEW YORK Johnson & Johnson is reviewing creative chores on its Splenda sweetener brand, which last year spent nearly $35 million in major measured media, sources said.

J&J has invited the New York offices of four roster shops to pitch the business: Omnicom agencies DDB and BBDO, WPP Group’s JWT and independent Mother, said sources.

The contenders have been briefed and are preparing for final presentations, according to sources. A decision is expected in June.

The agencies either could not be reached or declined comment, and J&J vp, worldwide advertising Joe McCarthy was not immediately available.

The incumbent is Alchemy here, a subsidiary of Interpublic Group’s Lowe.

Alchemy, meanwhile, is said to be moving closer to Lowe in light of the Splenda review and after losing traditional creative and media planning duties on J&J’s Imodium to IPG sibling shop Deutsch here in January.

Deutsch previously handled interactive duties on Imodium. Major measured media spending on the brand was only $3 million last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. In 2005, the spend was nearly $25 million, per Nielsen.

The losses reduced Alchemy’s share of J&J to brands such as Motrin, Mylanta, Pepcid, Balmex, Cortaid, Ortho, Ultracet and Lactaid. And the shop’s headcount, once about 50, now hovers around 20, said sources.

As a result, the unit is preparing to exit its Park Avenue space for Lowe’s midtown office here. Once the move is complete, sources expect Alchemy’s staffers to become part of Lowe Healthcare, which is based in Parsippany, N.J.

Alchemy CEO Amy Sacks and Lowe worldwide CEO Stephen Gatfield could not immediately be reached.