GSK Sends $1.5 Billion Media Account to Publicis

Sources characterized the final process of the review as ‘ugly and disrespectful’

PHD and GroupM were incumbents on the account - Credit by Getty Images
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GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) concluded the mandated global media review it launched in May with the selection of a custom Publicis Media team known as platformGSK as its global media agency of record.

PlatformGSK will bring together talent from across Publicis Media with expertise in areas such as healthcare, consumer strategy and digital business transformation, utilize the Publicis PeopleCloud to create an “end-to-end” marketing platform and create a global data hub.

“We ran a very thorough and competitive pitch process with strong presentations from all companies, but ultimately Publicis was the best fit for us,” GSK vice president, head of global media Scott Grenz said in a statement. “We’re excited about the new partnership and the potential of the platformGSK model as we continue to progress our marketing transformation programme.”

“GSK is one of the largest consumer healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in the world,” added Publicis Groupe client lead Laurent Ezekiel. “We are excited to partner with them to establish a transformative client-agency relationship that will enable GSK to deliver on its ambition to become the best data-driven marketer in the industry.”

Earlier this week, GSK narrowed the review—which was handled by ID Comms—down to four finalists: incumbents PHD, GroupM, an unspecified Dentsu network and a custom Publicis Media team. PHD formerly handled the North American media business. Within GroupM, MediaCom handled the offline media account in EMEA, while Essence handled the digital account in the region and Mindshare handled media in the Latin America and Asia-Pacific regions. These agencies pitched together as GroupM during the review. PHD and MediaCom previously defended their portions of the business in a 2015 global media review.

According to sources with direct knowledge of the matter, the review process was largely price-driven, noting that the move is something of a consolidation as Publicis handles a good deal of creative work for GSK brands. The sources claimed the final stages of the review saw the client assemble all four remaining agencies at a hotel, pitting them against each other before delivering the news to them one by one until finally revealing its selection of Publicis. These sources characterized the final process of the review as “ugly and disrespectful,” comparing it to the elimination of finalists in the Miss America Pageant.

GSK spent around $1.58 billion on measured media globally last year, according to R3.

Earlier this week, Novartis announced plans to cut 2,550 jobs in the U.K. and Switzerland over the next four years in an effort to drive profits, following GSK’s acquisition of Novartis’ consumer healthcare business earlier this year.


@ErikDOster erik.oster@adweek.com Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.