Zenith Adds $75 Mil. in Drug Biz

AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals has awarded direct-to-consumer media planning and buying for its upcoming cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor to Zenith Optimedia Group’s Zenith Media, New York.

Expected to go to market in the first quarter of 2003, the Crestor launch could be backed by $75 million-plus in ad spending, sources said.

The bulk of AstraZeneca spending has been devoted to Nexium, the company’s highly successful successor to its heartburn fighter Prilosec; the Nexium spend is an estimated $50 million.

“The decision was made on the strength of what Zenith was able to accomplish for us with Nexium,” said an AstraZeneca representative about the Crestor assignment.

The new drug will go up against Pfizer’s Lipitor, the best-selling cholesterol drug in the world.

In October, Lipitor, which first entered the market in 1996, launched a new campaign created by Merkley Newman Harty, New York, that was backed by an estimated $60-70 million in spending. Aegis Group’s Carat, New York, handles media for Pfizer.

AstraZeneca works with several healthcare-specialist shops on creative. It is unclear who will handle the creative assignment for Crestor.

The Wilmington, Del.-based client has also worked with Omnicom Group’s PHD, New York, which had been handling the preliminary planning for Crestor. Although PHD has worked with the advertiser for some time, Crestor planning was its only remaining link to AstraZeneca.

The realignment therefore, effectively consolidates the cli ent’s U.S. media business at Zenith, a move under consideration by the client for some time [Adweek, Aug. 28, 2000].

It would raise Zenith’s billings with AstraZeneca to about $175 million. Neither the client nor the agencies were available for comment. One source called the move “a natural decision. … You had a client looking to consolidate, but did not have to hold a big review.”