Walgreens Boots Alliance starts global search for marcomms agency

The review is part of a broader digital transformation at the company.

Walgreens parent the Walgreens Boots Alliance is seeking global marcomms agency support. (Photo credit: Getty Images).
Walgreens parent the Walgreens Boots Alliance is seeking global marcomms agency support. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

DEERFIELD, IL: Walgreens Boots Alliance has started a global RFP process to find a marketing and communications agency partner.

“This is part of a broader digital transformation that our business is undergoing as consumer behavior and needs are changing rapidly, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic,” a spokesperson for the company told PRWeek via email.

The budget is $250 million to $300 million.

Walgreens Boots Alliance launched the RFP because its three-year contract with WPP, its marketing and comms AOR, is set to come to a close later this year. Within WPP, the company mainly works with Ogilvy, Finsbury, BCW, GCI and Hill+Knowlton Strategies. 

“WPP is an industry leader, so they were invited to re-pitch and are a very strong contender at this time,” said Walgreens Boots Alliance global CMO Vineet Mehra. “We’ve made great momentum with them over the last few years.”

Two other holding companies also have been invited to pitch. Walgreens Boots Alliance will make its decision at the end of 2020. 

The company is looking for a marketing and comms partner at the holding company level that has a digital and data-first mindset to enable Walgreens Boots Alliance’s digital transformation, said Mehra. The firm will handle media relations, creative, comms and programmatic. 

“We are looking for it to be delivered in a way that puts our first-party data at the center of the transformation we want to drive,” said Mehra. 

Walgreens Boots Alliance’s global chief communications officer Aaron Radelet noted that the agency will also handle reputation management.

“We want to set up an org design where we are operating from a one-team approach,” said Radelet. “We are all wearing the same jersey out on the field so there isn’t a distinction about who works for the agency and who works internally. We want to have a close working relationship.”

In early 2017, Walgreens Boots Alliance named WPP to handle marketing, communications and creative for its global retail and wholesale business in a deal estimated to be worth $600 million. WPP was to create hub offices in Chicago, London and New York to support Walgreens in the U.S., Boots in the U.K. and the Alliance Healthcare Business. 

Finsbury, Ogilvy and Burson-Marsteller, since merged with fellow WPP shop Cohn & Wolfe into BCW, were selected to handle PR as part of the account at the time.  

In January, Walgreens Boots Alliance group VP Gulden Mesara-Dogan exited the company.

Walgreens Boots Alliance hired Hilton Worldwide global communications leader Aaron Radelet as SVP and global chief communications officer last July. Chuck Greener moved from the role of SVP of global comms and corporate affairs to the newly created role of SVP and global chief public affairs officer. 

Walgreens Boots Alliance includes the eponymous U.S.- and Europe-based pharmacy chains, Walgreens and Boots, as well as pharma wholesale company Alliance Healthcare. Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens acquired a 45% ownership stake in Alliance Boots in 2012. Two years later, Walgreens bought the 55% it didn’t own

For the first six months of Walgreens Boots Alliance’s fiscal 2020, which ended on February 29, the company’s net earnings dropped 21.4% to $1.8 billion compared with the same period of a year ago. Sales increased 3.7% to $35.8 billion. 

The company said that it was on track to maintain its guidance for its fiscal year before COVID-19 and that its fiscal Q2 performance beat company expectations, but added that it was “not in a position to accurately forecast future impacts.” 

“During these unprecedented times of global uncertainty, Walgreens Boots Alliance is on the front lines of combating the COVID-19 pandemic,” said executive vice chairman and CEO Stefano Pessina in the company's earnings statement. “Our number one priority is to continue to provide essential services, products and information at this critical moment of need, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to our customers and patients, and to our people.” 

This story was updated on May 12 with additional information. 

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