Nothing To Sneeze At, Starcom Wins $600M Novartis Account

Theraflu-ExcedrinDrug giant Novartis has awarded its $600 million plus global media account to Publicis Groupe’s Starcom, after a review.

The company began the search process a year ago, then kicked off the review formally in the early spring. The incumbent is WPP’s MEC. Executives there couldn’t be reached for comment.

In the U.S., the company spent $300 million on ads in 2010, according to Kantar Media. For the first nine months of this year, U.S. spending totaled about $235 million, per Kantar.

The drug maker stated: “After an extensive evaluation and careful consideration, we can confirm that Novartis has selected Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) as our new global media agency. While we are not remaining with GroupM, we appreciate the relationship we have had with them over the past several years.”

Sources indicated that Starcom will take over the Novartis account around the end of the first quarter of 2012.

The client narrowed contenders in the review down to two finalists, including MEC and Starcom, back in October. Interpublic’s Initiative also participated but was eliminated just before the final round.

It’s been an active year for big pharmaceutical reviews.

Earlier this month, Bayer consolidated its global account with WPP’s MediaCom. Initiative had been the U.S. incumbent on the assignment. Last December, GlaxoSmithKline shifted its estimated $700 million media assignment in the U.S. from MediaCom to Omnicom’s PHD. Around the same time, Pfizer reviewed and retained Aegis Group’s Carat for its $1.2 billion U.S. media assignment. 

Novartis manufactures over-the-counter remedies, such as Excedrin headache tablets and cold-and-flu remedy Theraflu, as well as prescription drugs such as Diovan HCT for high blood pressure.

The company reported net sales of more than $50.6 billion in its 2010 annual report, up 14% from the previous year.

It’s been a bumpy ride for MEC recently. Last week, Toys R Us shifted duties on its $100 million assignment to OMD after a review. While it’s been an uneven year for the WPP shop, it has brought in $1 billion in net new business worldwide, punctuated by the $200 million global Marriott win in October. 

The shop made a change in its North American leadership in the fall when CEO Lee Doyle stepped down and was succeeded by Marla Kaplowitz. She had previously been president, U.S. clients and head of planning at the agency. 

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