Novartis Moves Closer to Review

Novartis AG’s internal discussions about a possible global media consolidation are about to go public. Sources said the company plans to issue an RFP for its consolidated global media buying and planning business by the end of July.

At the center of the review will be the Swiss drug maker’s pharmaceuticals operation. In the U.S., those units spent just under $250 million last year, according to CMR. Novartis’ global ad budget is undetermined.

The East Hanover, N.J.-based advertiser, which markets such well-known brands as Gerber, Ex-Lax and Maalox, is looking for a consultant to assist with the search.

In an unusual twist in conventional review procedure, the client has asked the agencies that will compete in the review to help draft the RFP, including suggesting specific questions, sources said. “They said, ‘we’re going to [review media]’ and asked [roster agencies] to give an insight into the kinds of things other clients have asked in media reviews,” said one source.

The ongoing conversations are part of a months-long preparation for the impending consolidation [Adweek, April 2].

Competing in the review will be roster shops MindShare in New York and Initiative Media here. Optimedia, New York, whose sister shop Publicis in Mid America recently won creative and media for Ciba Vision, the Novartis eyecare unit, also will participate. Overseas, Novartis works with CIA Medianetwork and OMD.

The client appears to be limiting the search to roster agencies. Those shops declined comment. And Novartis’ executive director/global advertising, Deborah Dick-Rath, who has spearheaded the consolidation, was unavailable.

Novartis’ creative shops include Noble & Associates in Springfield, Mo., Quantum Group in Parsippany, N.J., and the New York offices of Grey Healthcare and Ogilvy & Mather. Grey’s media-network sibling, MediaCom, which handles Novartis competitor GlaxoSmith Kline, is not expected to participate in the Novartis search.