BBDO and JWT win, Havas loses as Bayer divvies up Merck's former OTC brands

Bayer, which picked up Merck's ($MRK) consumer health unit in a $14.2 billion deal this spring, wanted to fold in all the brands from the New Jersey pharma giant's lineup. But to do so, it had to do some creative assignment shuffling. And its agencies had to take some creative steps of their own.

In order for JWT, one of the German pharma's roster agencies, to take on Coppertone--a sizable Merck brand conflicting with existing sunscreen business from Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic--parent company WPP Group had to create a separate unit, AdWeek reports. Based in London, the new unit, TeamLife, will work across Coppertone and other Bayer/Merck consumer brands, sources told the publication.

After the May deal agreement, consumer health rivals reportedly thought they may be able to snatch up some of Bayer's winnings. Analysts agreed that a few of the brands--Coppertone among them--didn't quite fit with Bayer's product lineup, giving scavengers cause for hope.

Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers

But Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers has said time and again that he's gunning for the global consumer health lead, and letting go of a whopper like Coppertone didn't fit into that plan. "We intend to keep the portfolio acquired from Merck & Co. as a core business," Bayer said in a July statement.

Bayer also did some creative consolidating. In addition to the Merck work, JWT picked up Bayer's Phillips, a brand formerly handled by BBDO. That move reorganized accounts along category lines, according to Advertising Age. But BBDO got plenty in return, pinning down Merck's biggest-spending brands, including Claritin, Afrin and Dr. Scholl's in the Americas--a trio that had a combined $135 million through the first three quarters of 2014.

The loser in this equation? Havas, the Merck partner that will bid farewell to brands it's worked on for decades. "Having played such a large part in developing these brands, naturally we are disappointed that we will not be working on them going forward," a Havas spokeswoman told Ad Age of Claritin and Dr. Scholl's. "We are incredibly proud to have been a valued creative and strategic partner of these brands for more than 30 years."

- get more from AdWeek
- see the Ad Age story

Special Reports: The top 10 pharma companies by 2013 revenue - Bayer HealthCare | Pharma's top 10 M&A deals of H1 2014 - Bayer/Merck Consumer Health