NEW YORK: Pfizer has selected WPP to handle global PR work for three leading products in its cardiovascular franchise, including Lipitor, the world's best-selling drug. WPP's Cohn & Wolfe (C&W) will lead the team.
The decision comes two months after Pfizer pushed the world's three largest marketing holding companies - WPP, Interpublic, and Omnicom - to each assemble their strongest PR personnel regardless of the specific agency they work for. Earlier this month, Omnicom dropped out of the race.
To service the account, WPP has formed a new entity called WPP Health Success. The move is somewhat reminiscent of Omnicom's formation of One Blue in 2001 to service IBM, but differs in that WPP, at the request of Pfizer, will assemble a team to work solely for the new entity. WPP Health Success will operate out of C&W's New York office.
"Our goal is to put a single WPP face in front of them," said Howard Paster, director and EVP of Public Relations/Public Affairs at WPP. He said WPP is currently in the process of working with Pfizer to determine who will be a part of the dedicated team.
Four agencies other than C&W - Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton, Feinstein Kean Healthcare, and Wunderman, a direct agency - participated in the WPP pitch, which took place last month. Paster said all the firms involved in the pitch, with the exception of C&W, would contribute equally to the Pfizer account.
Kathryn Metcalf, head of C&W's healthcare practice, will lead WPP Health Success' efforts, but Paster said it is still unknown whether she would leave her existing C&W duties to focus entirely on Pfizer.
WPP made C&W the lead agency because it was the WPP firm that would be least affected by client conflicts and had an appropriate balance of consumer and healthcare expertise, according to Paster.
Regarding Pfizer's decision to go with WPP, Michal Fishman, director, US pharmaceuticals PR for the pharma giant, said, "They pulled together what we thought of as a dream team, and presented a working structure that will best service the business, with the necessary coordination between the brands, and between US and global constituents."
In addition to Lipitor, the account includes Norvasc, a treatment for hypertension and angina, and Caduet, a dual therapy of Lipitor and Norvasc currently awaiting FDA approval.
Samina Bari, Pfizer's director of US pharmaceuticals for the three brands included on the account, will lead the US business internally. Vanessa Aristide, director of corporate media relations for Pfizer, will manage the brands globally.