Health care giant Johnson & Johnson is conducting a U.S. buying-focused agency review, according to sources.
The company spent just over $1 billion on ads in the U.S. last year, according to Kantar Media. That was down 14% from the nearly $1.2 billion it spent the prior year, per Kantar.
The U.S. incumbent is Interpublic’s UM, which won the U.S. planning and buying assignment after a 2007 review. In addition to UM, which is defending, other agencies said to be participating in the process include WPP’s MEC and Omnicom’s OMD. The agencies either referred queries to the client or could not be immediately reached for comment.
A J&J rep wrote via email: “I am not able to provide comment at this time.”
Sources stressed that the current review is for buying only. While the client indicated early on that there was a possibility that the review could evolve into a full-blown media pitch that included planning and strategy, the first two rounds of the process have focused solely on media-buying issues with an emphasis on pricing.
The sources said they expect a decision about buying shortly and that a planning review, if conducted, would most likely be handled separately.
Word of the review in the U.S. follows a separate media review -- for both planning and buying -- that the client wrapped up two weeks ago for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. J&J’s estimated annual spending there is said to be approximately $320 million.
J&J awarded the EMEA business to two shops, with the majority of it going to a new GroupM entity called Primus. UM was awarded a smaller portion. Carat had been the incumbent on the entire piece of business since 2007.
MEC is said to be involved in Primus. It was not clear whether GroupM has pitched a Primus–type arrangement as part of the U.S. review, should MEC prevail. Queries were referred to the client.