Pfizer shifts creative business to Publicis in latest marketing move

Less than a year after divvying up its marketing work between two firms, Publicis Groupe and Interpublic Group, Pfizer is tweaking the distribution of duties among the pair.

The Big Pharma has shifted its global creative business to Publicis’ purview, it confirmed to Fierce Pharma Marketing.

Previously, IPG was Pfizer’s lead creative partner; it’ll reportedly hang on to product PR and health brief responsibilities for the drugmaker, according to Campaign. Publicis, meanwhile, adds creative to an existing list of Pfizer marketing duties that includes data, media and production.

“As Pfizer evolves its marketing model, the company is deeply committed to the flexible, two-agency partnership that was put in place last year,” Pfizer said in a statement sent to Fierce Pharma Marketing. “Publicis and IPG, each with their respective areas of responsibility, will continue to help drive cutting-edge and data-driven integrated marketing communications focused on the value our science and our breakthroughs.”

Publicis declined to comment on the switch.

The shuffle comes about 10 months after Pfizer first tapped both Publicis and IPG to take over its marketing matters, which in turn came shortly after the company appointed Andreas “Drew” Panayiotou, a Verily alum, as its first-ever biopharma global chief marketing officer.

Panayiotou reportedly conducted an agency review after taking on the role, ultimately resulting in the selection of Publicis and IPG to head up Pfizer’s marketing. At the time of last spring’s announcement, he told PR Week that “consolidating and centralizing” the company’s agency model would help make its marketing business “more innovative, nimbler and data-driven.”

That shift for Pfizer’s marketing business, which is valued at $1.41 billion, added up to the biggest account move of last year by Campaign’s count.

Since then, Pfizer’s marketing moves have included a star-studded COVID-19 booster campaign last fall, an ad for its pneumonia vaccine during this year’s Oscars and, in perhaps its most high-profile spot, a Super Bowl LVIII commercial that celebrated scientific progress—and, of course, the role the pharma has played in that progress—which it reportedly produced in collaboration with Publicis.

Separately from the Oscars and Super Bowl ads, Pfizer kicked off the year by majorly upping its general TV ad spending: In January, it poured $22.7 million into its “If it’s Covid, Paxlovid” spot, which had previously been backed by just $6.7 million in December, and spent $17.6 million on ads for its Abrysvo RSV vaccine, down from $18 million the month before, earning Pfizer the fourth and 10th spots on the month’s ranking of pharma DTC spending. A month later, however, Pfizer was nowhere to be found on the top 10 list for February, which saw a significant month-over-month decrease in overall spending.