NEW YORK—Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has chosen a team assembled from WPP Group’s various public relations agencies, led by Cohn & Wolfe, to handle global public relations for three of its leading cardiovascular products, including Lipitor, a cholesterol treatment and the world’s best selling drug.
To win the business, beating out rivals Interpublic and Omnicom, which dropped out of the pitch earlier this year, WPP created a new unit it is calling WPP Health Success, with Howard Paster, director and executive vice president of WPP’s public relations and public affairs operations, serving as its chief operating officer.
Kathryn Metcalfe, head of Cohn & Wolfe’s healthcare practice, will lead the account, and will draw on a team that includes Raul Garza, a multicultural marketing specialist, and Reyn Archer, a health policy expert, both from Hill & Knowlton; public affairs experts from Burson-Marsteller Brussels, who will advise on European Union issues; representatives from Ogilvy’s life sciences unit Feistein Kean; and an expert in direct-to-patient communications from Wundermann,
Cohn & Wolfe is the lead agency because of its balance of consumer and healthcare expertise and because it is the least likely to be affected by cleint conflicts.
In asking major holding companies, rather than individual firms, to pitch the franchise, Pfizer indicated a belief that no single agency had the capabilities to handle such a wide portfolio—and provide such a wide array of services—on a global basis. While clients are increasingly asking large holding companies to assemble cross-disciplinary teams including representatives from all disciplines, it is still relatively unusual for the companies to pull together teams that represent the best of a single discipline—in this case PR—across their network.
(Two years ago, Omnicom created a team that included representatives from Brodeur, Ketchum, and others to pitch the IBM business, but that team—named One Blue—was the agency’s idea, not a response to the client’s demand.)
In addition to Lipitor, the account includes Norvasc, a treatment for hypertension and angina; and Caduet, which is awaiting FDA approval. Ketchum had been agency of record on the Lipitor for five years, while Feinstein Kean had handled the other two products on a project basis.