TAP Pharmaceutical Dangles $100 Mil. Prevacid Prize

TAP Pharmaceutical Products will more than triple spending on its Prevacid heartburn drug to $100 million to better compete with top rival Nexium, and has asked four holding companies to recommend which agencies should pitch the business.

Receiving RFPs were Grey Worldwide, IPG, Omnicom and WPP. Each was asked to recommend one or two teams of its agencies that are best suited to pursue the account.

TAP said contacting the holding companies would be a more efficient way to reach a broader range of shops. The Lake Forest, Ill.-based advertiser, a joint venture of Abbott Laboratories and Takeda Chemical Industries, also wanted to avoid being inundated with responses from individual shops.

IPG passed the inquiry on to Deutsch and McCann-Erickson (pitching with IPG’s Gillespie, which currently works on the brand); Omnicom recommended Merkley Newman Harty & Partners and TBWA\Chiat\Day; and WPP selected Young & Rubicam and Ogilvy & Mather. Grey declined to participate, sources said.

Some agencies were chosen for their category experience. Merkley handles Pfizer’s Lipitor, an anti-cholesterol drug. Deutsch handles Pfizer’s Zyrtec allergy medicine and anti-depressant Zoloft. McCann handles GlaxoSmithKline’s Paxil, a social-anxiety drug, and Aventis Pharmaceuticals’ Allegra, an allergy medication. Y&R handled the 1999 DTC launch of Merck’s Propecia, a hair-loss remedy.

The RFP states that TAP is seeking a shop capable of providing “a complete array of direct-to-consumer communication services including strategy, creative development, media planning and operations.”

Prevacid’s annual spending had been $30 million, according to TAP’s RFP. But the company wants to keep pace with competitor AstraZeneca, who, according to the RFP, is putting $215 million behind its Nexium heartburn drug this year. TAP expects to make a decision by Sept. 23.

Bates had the business until earlier this year, a TAP representative said, but declined to participate.