DDB Beats Out 3 for Merck’s Singulair Biz

New YORK—DDB Worldwide has landed ad duties on Singulair, an anti-asthma drug from Merck & Co., the client comfirmed. Billings are estimated at more than $40 million.

DDB bested fellow New York shops McCann-Erickson Worldwide, J. Walter Thompson and FCB Worldwide. FCB was the incumbent.

The assignment encompasses creative and media planning duties for the prescription drug, which is sold in tablet form. Media duties on all Merck brands are consolidated at TN Media, here.

Spending on Singulair has exploded from less than $1 million in 1998 to more than $40 million in the first 10 months of 2000, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

As part of the brief, the shops were asked to develop a budget for 2001, sources said. [Adweek, Feb. 12]. The pitches took place during the past several weeks.

FCB’s most recent TV work for Singulair suggested that the drug helps asthma sufferers lead normal lives.

One spot touting a cherry-flavored chewable tablet shows a boy playing with a model airplane and his dog. Another features a female schoolteacher who says, “I might have asthma, but I also have a life.”

Both spots note that Singulair is not a steroid and warn that it should not be used to treat acute asthma. They end with a phone number and the tagline, “Asthma control that can help you breathe easier.”

DDB now handles several Merck brands, including Vioxx, an arthritis reliever, and a new, as-yet-unnamed anti-cholesterol drug, which is being jointly marketed with Schering-Plough. Billings on the latter brand, which DDB also recently won [Adweek, Jan. 15], are estimated at $50-70 million.

After a dry spell, DDB has been more active on the new business front as of late. It won the American Stock Exchange earlier this month; last week it picked up additional business from Unilever’s Bestfoods brands (see Newswire, p. 28).