Merck, Lilly Turn Attention To TV

FDA Rule Change Spurs Reviews for Consolidated Drug Accounts
NEW YORK–As pharmaceutical companies increase their direct-to-consumer TV advertising, two large drug companies, Merck and Eli Lilly, are altering their agency lineups, sources said.
Merck in West Point, Pa., is consolidating its consumer direct response account, which includes brands that received nearly $160 million in consumer ad support last year. About half of that budget went to Fosamax, a prescription osteoporosis drug, and Prilosec, a prescription heartburn remedy. The reviews follow the easing of rules on prescription drug TV ads by the Food and Drug Administration.
Merck splits its consumer direct response business between OgilvyOne and Wunderman Cato Johnson, both in New York. Those shops, along with Barry Blau & Partners in Wilton, Conn., Clarion Direct in Greenwich, Conn., and Devon Direct Marketing & Advertising in Berwyn, Pa., are pitching the business, which includes creative and media chores, sources said. A decision is expected in July. Merck and the agencies declined comment.
“On the heels of the FDA changes, the industry is putting more and more money into direct response TV; it’s more accountable and it’s a great way to build frequency,” said one source.
“By investing a lot in TV for a prescription brand upfront, drug companies are anticipating savings later when they take it downstream to over-the-counter,” said Ken Harris, a partner at Cannondale Associates, an Evanston, Ill., marketing and sales consultancy.
Eli Lilly’s desire to use direct TV sparked the review for all of its estimated $10 million direct response consumer media assignments on three brands, sources said. The Indianapolis client selected DraftDirect Worldwide here to handle the anti-depressant Prozac, Evista (for osteoporosis) and diabetes treatment Humalog. DraftDirect bested Media Direct Partners and Creative Media, both in New York, for the business. ADvice & ADvisors here, which handled the review, and DraftDirect both declined comment.
Creative Media, along with the Gramercy Group here, had shared direct response print media duties for Humalog, while Leo Burnett in Chicago handled the print direct response media for Evista and Prozac. Burnett is not sufficiently staffed to handle direct response TV buying for the two brands, sources said. Burnett retains general advertising media duties as well as creative responsibility for the two brands.