Merck Selects IPG Team for Media Biz

Merck has awarded media planning and buying duties on its nearly $600 million advertising account to a team of Interpublic Group agencies led by Initiative and Draftfcb following a review, according to sources. Other contenders included Havas’ MPG and Publicis Groupe’s Zenith Media.

The company called a consolidation media review after completing its merger with Schering-Plough last year, according to sources. MPG and Zenith both handled portions of the Schering-Plough account.

Combined estimated U.S. ad spending on the account is close to $600 million. Merck spent close to $520 million from January through November 2009 on measured media, while Schering-Plough spent $55 million during the same period, according to Nielsen. Those figures do not include digital expenditures.

Both Draftfcb and Initiative were incumbents on the Merck assignment. Draftfcb handled planning and some buying, including digital and print. Initiative handles TV buying. It was unclear how those duties would be rearranged going forward.

In addition to those IPG shops, sibling agencies Reprise and direct specialist ID Media were part of the team in the IPG pitch, per sources. It was not clear if any other shops were involved in the pitch.

The agencies declined comment, couldn’t be reached or referred queries to Merck. A Merck representative could not immediately be reached.

In November, Merck completed its merger with Schering-Plough in a transaction valued at $41.1 billion. Last month the company reported full-year 2009 revenue of more than $27.4 billion.

Client brands include Afrin, Claritin, Nasonex, Proventil and Dr. Scholl’s.

The review, per sources, was for media only. Merck’s creative shops include Draftfcb and Omnicom Group’s DDB Healthcare. Schering-Plough’s creative roster includes Havas’ Euro RSCG and Omnicom units Merkley + Partners, BBDO, TBWA\WorldHealth and DDB Healthcare.