Burnett Ditches LeoHealth

Leo Burnett has abandoned its LeoHealth unit a year after it was launched.

The agency has lost several of the clients that would have been grouped under the unit, and its original leader left in March. Healthcare will no longer be a priority, said Bob Brennan, Burnett’s world-wide president.

Brennan said having a “sub brand” like LeoHealth detracted from the agency’s focus. “It’s so difficult to have any brand in the marketplace that you have to focus on driving your main brand without [having to worry] about sub-brands,” he said.

Burnett earlier this year folded its Leo Burnett Technology Group into the main agency.

Launched with speeches and champagne toasts last July, LeoHealth was intended to take a more consumer-oriented ap-proach to healthcare advertising than other specialty units owned by other agencies [Adweek, July 17, 2000]. The unit was the brainchild of Burnett chief marketing officer Mary Bishop, who left the agency in March.

At its inception, LeoHealth accounted for about $150 million in billings for brands such as Prozac, Procter & Gamble’s Pepto-Bismol and Metamucil and Pharmacia’s Celebrex.

Three of those accounts are gone. P&G last week moved the Pepto and Metamucil accounts to D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles. And Pharmacia earlier this month moved the $80 million Celebrex account to J. Walter Thompson in New York without a review. Spending for Eli Lilly’s Prozac has been drastically reduced as the brand’s patent is set to expire this summer.

LeoHealth’s creation came at a time when many large agencies were looking for ways to enter what looked to be a burgeoning market. But federal regulations and patent law have made the category difficult to manage, Brennan said.

Burnett continues to handle project work for Pharmacia and Eli Lilly and has been assigned a healthcare project for P&G. However, the pursuit of healthcare clients will not be a priority for Burnett because of the difficulty of the sector, Brennan said.