Merck Gives FCB a Shot

FCB Healthcare has won direct-to-consumer duties on Varivax, a chicken pox vaccine from Merck & Co. Fellow roster shop Young & Rubicam was also considered for the business.
The unit of Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide handles DTC chores on several Merck drugs, including Fosamax, Zocor, Mevacor, Singulair and Proscar.
A client representative would not confirm spending, however, sources estimated a $5 million budget. FCB Healthcare here referred calls to the client.
Varivax, introduced in 1995, is used primarily for infants 12-18 months old, although it can be given to children as old as 13 who have not yet contracted the disease.
Merck plans to air new ads, including public service announcements, by midyear. The client has not determined if they will air nationally or as spot buys.
Spending on Varivax will be low compared with other DTC-promoted drugs, due mostly to its limited audience. The vaccine is targeted primarily at parents of small children.
Non-consumer duties are handled by Biologix, the healthcare division of the Hal Lewis Group in Philadelphia, which also crafted past DTC radio and print work. Doctor-targeted ads from Biologix use the tagline:
“Varicella can be deadly. Treat it that way.” Although that line may be changed, Merck said its underlying concept–that the virus can kill children–will remain.
Overall, spending on DTC ads continues to soar. Advertisers spent over $1 billion in the category through November of 1998, per Competitive Media Reporting. Total spending for 1997 reached only $844 million.
Separately, creative and print buying duties on Kraft’s Cool Whip were shifted from FCB in Chicago to New York. Spending on the brand was $26 million in 1997, per CMR.