With an RFI, Pfizer Raises Questions for Its Agencies

Pfizer, through a top procurement executive, has gathered credentials and capabilities information from creative agencies that already handle advertising, direct marketing, interactive marketing and customer relationship management efforts for the company.

Pfizer, which last year spent more than $800 million in major measured media domestically, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus, also reached out to non-roster agencies as part of a process that’s designed to “improve the way Pfizer engages with agency partners,” a company representative said on Friday. Pfizer’s media duties, now at Aegis Group’s Carat in New York, are not part of the review.

Pfizer is looking at both consumer-market shops and those that advertise to doctors. Consumer-focused roster agencies include Publicis Groupe’s The Kaplan Thaler Group and Interpublic Group’s McCann Erickson. Physician-focused shops include Omnicom Group’s Cline Davis & Mann and Havas’ Euro RSCG Life.

Responses to Pfizer’s requests for information were due back to Pfizer two weeks ago. The RFI for non-roster agencies was more probative than the one for roster agencies already familiar to the client.

The document asked for pharmaceutical experience by category for each shop, as well as its respective holding company, leading some sources to suspect that Pfizer is looking to consolidate the bulk of its business at a single holding company, just as Sanofi-Synthelabo did at Publicis Groupe in 2003. When asked about this, the Pfizer rep replied: “I don’t think, if that is to be considered, we’re at that stage yet.”

Consolidation is likely to be a key consideration, however, given that in the U.S. Pfizer uses several agencies for each discipline, said sources. Examples of direct marketing, interactive and public relations roster shops include WPP Group’s Wunderman, Carat and independent Edelman, respectively.

A group of Pfizer executives, led by Jim Akers, director of global sourcing, will spend several weeks sifting through RFI submissions before determining their next steps. “We’re really taking a strategic look at the landscape,” said the Pfizer rep.

This spring, Pfizer Australia consolidated its marketing services duties within IPG. Previously, the business had been split among agencies within IPG, WPP and Omnicom. However, the U.S. process is “totally separate” from anything that has been done in other countries, the company rep said.

Globally, Pfizer last year spent $2.7 billion on advertising expenses, including production and media buying, according to the company’s annual report. That figure was up 4 percent from $2.6 billion in 2006 and on par with 2005, when ad expenses also totaled $2.7 billion.