WPP Wins PR for 3 Pfizer Drugs

Pfizer’s decision last week to award $5-10 million in global public relations chores for three drugs to a team of WPP Group shops is the latest example of how PR reviews, paralleling other disciplines, are becoming holding-company affairs.

Teams from Interpublic Group, WPP Group and Omnicom Group —not individual agencies—battled for the assignment, which includes cholesterol drug Lipitor, hypertension drug Norvasc, and Caduet, a combination of Lipitor and Norvasc awaiting FDA approval.

“Before, we treated [the drugs] as separate brands,” said Michal Fishman, Pfizer director of U.S. pharmaceutical PR. “[But we looked] at this franchise of medicines that have a similar audience base and benefits, and we wanted to … leverage the strength of the franchise.”

“Each of the brands needs its own program, but there will be overarching themes,” said Howard Paster, evp of public relations and public affairs at WPP in New York, who led the pitch.

IBM pioneered a trend in 2001, when IPG and Omnicom battled for its PR account, won by Omnicom. WPP won Hewlett-Packard’s PR in 2002.

WPP’s Pfizer team included specialists from Cohn & Wolfe, Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller and Feinstein Kean Healthcare. Omnicom dropped out last month. The Lipitor incumbent was Omnicom’s Ketchum; Feinstein Kean has done Norvasc and Caduet projects. Omnicom’s Merkley + Partners handles Lipitor’s $90 million-plus ad account.