Bristol-Myers Puts Media in Play

For the first time in decades, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. is looking for an agency to handle its $275 million U.S. media planning and buying account.

The drug marketer’s media budget has been handled in-house for more than a quarter century. Several undisclosed media shops are scheduled to make presentations or have recently met with the New York-based client, sources said.

Bristol-Myers, whose brands include Excedrin and Enfamil, spent about $400 million on media in 2000, according to Competitive Media Reporting. However, roughly $125 million of that amount was earmarked for Bristol-Myers subsidiary Clairol Co., which has been on the block for six months as Bristol-Myers refocuses on its healthcare business.

“At this point, we’re still evaluating our media buying and planning because [of the pending Clairol sale],” said a Bristol-Myers representative. She declined to provide further details of the review.

“Whoever the buyer of Clairol is [probably] will have the option of buying the in-house team,” a source said. Bristol-Myers’ in-house unit is run by Peggy Kelly, vp of adver tising. Vet eran ad executive Pete Spengler, vp of marketing services, is thought to be leading the review process.

In September 2000, Starcom Me diaVest Group, which handles the bulk of Bristol-Myers’ media buying in Asia, won the client’s consolidated global planning and buying account. (U.S. media was not included in that review.) Zenith Media and Initiative Media have also done work for the client in the past, sources said. All three agencies either declined comment or said they had no knowledge of the review.

Bristol-Myers’ U.S. creative shops include the New York offices of Starcom sisters D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Kaplan Thaler Group (a Clairol creative agency) and FCB Worldwide (also a Clairol shop).

Bristol-Myers is the latest in a growing list of pharmaceutical advertisers to change the way they plan and buy media, as the over-the-counter consumer category continues to sizzle. Bristol-Myers reflected the industry’s new focus last week when marketer Peter Dolan, the company’s president, was named chief executive.

Currently, both Pfizer and Glaxo SmithKline are conducting media-consolidation reviews sparked by mergers or acquisitions. Those two contests alone total an estimated $1.3 billion in pharmaceutical media spending. Another top-tier drug marketer, AstraZeneca, has tinkered with the idea of a media consolidation review in the past year.