GlaxoSmithKline taps Publicis—and its 'platformGSK' setup—for $1.5B media account

GlaxoSmithKline awarded its estimated $1.5 billion media planning and buying account to Publicis Media after a five-month review. Publicis will create a custom “platformGSK” model to run the business, bringing expertise in healthcare, consumer strategy and digital from across its agency network, GSK said in a statement.

Incumbent media agencies Omnicom’s PHD and WPP’s Group M both were in contention but ultimately lost out to Publicis, which also handles some creative work for GSK. Adweek reported some sources characterized the review as “largely price-driven” and compared the final elimination of agencies to a not-so-friendly beauty contest.

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

The process streamlines GSK’s agency roster, giving Publicis Media responsibility for all offline and digital paid media strategy and planning in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific. In the U.S., that includes DTC pharma work.

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GSK last reviewed its media roster after its Novartis multibillion-dollar pharma asset swap and consumer healthcare joint venture in 2015. In March, just before the more recent review was announced, GSK agreed to buy Novartis' remaining share in the pair's OTC venture and take full ownership of the business.

Publicis Groupe client lead Laurent Ezekiel said the agency is “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.”