$600 Mil. Merck Media in Play

Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. has called a consolidation media review after completing its merger with Schering-Plough, according to sources.

Combined estimated U.S. ad spending on the account is close to $600 million. Merck spent close to $520 million from January through November 2009 on measured media, while Schering-Plough spent $55 million during the same period, according to Nielsen. Those figures do not include digital spending by the firms.

Incumbents on the Merck business include Interpublic’s Draftfcb and Initiative, which are participating in the review, per sources. Draftfcb handles planning and some buying, including digital and print. Initiative handles TV buying.

One incumbent on Schering-Plough is Havas’ MPG, which is also said to be pitching.

Other media roster shops could not be immediately determined.

At least one other contender is Publicis Groupe’s Zenith Media, per sources. It was unclear if Zenith had a piece of the client’s business.

The agencies declined comment, couldn’t be reached or referred queries to the client. A Merck representative did not immediately respond to questions about the review.

Sources indicated that final presentations are scheduled for March.

In November, Merck completed its merger with Schering-Plough in a transaction valued at $41.1 billion. Earlier this week the company reported full-year 2009 revenues of more than $27.4 billion.

Client brands include Afrin, Claritin, Nasonex, Proventil and Dr. Scholl’s.

The review, per sources, is for media only. Merck’s creative shops include Draftfcb and Omnicom Group’s DDB Healthcare. Schering-Plough’s creative roster includes Havas’ Euro RSCG and Omnicom units Merkley + Partners, BBDO, TBWA\WorldHealth and DDB Healthcare.