'New Pfizer' heads for top of ad-spend leaderboard--and not just in pharma

Now that would be some ad budget. Pfizer ($PFE) is already the biggest-budget pharma advertiser by far, but if the merger with Allergan ($AGN) clears its hurdles, a combined "Pfizergan" could become one of the biggest advertisers, period.

Last year, consumer and personal care umbrella brand giant Procter & Gamble led all advertisers in paid media spending for 2014 with $2.64 billion spent, according to Kantar Media. It was followed by General Motors at $1.65 billion, AT&T at $1.63 billion, Comcast at $1.55 billion, Berkshire Hathaway (mostly on Geico brand) at $1.43 billion, and L'Oreal at $1.425 billion.

If you add to Pfizer's total to Allergan's $267 million and Actavis' $387 million for 2014--the Allergan/Actavis deal wasn't finalized until spring 2015--total spending would top $2.05 billion, making the combined company, set to be called Pfizer PLC, No. 2 on Kantar's list.

A spokesman for Pfizer said it is premature to discuss any advertising or marketing impact.

Of course, it's not always simple addition when it comes to mergers and marketing. Mergers mean consolidations and cost cutting, and that can apply to advertising budgets, too.

But the other top spenders could cut back, too. As The Wall Street Journal noted, the merger would take place "as many big advertisers rethink their marketing budgets, slashing the number of agencies they work with and putting pressure on agency fees."

Brent Saunders

Future ad spend is also up to the marketing executives left in charge after the merger. Pfizer, for instance, seems comfortable with a heavy-handed advertising spend. But Allergan--whose CEO, Brent Saunders, will become Pfizer chief Ian Read's right-hand man as president and COO--has been a less aggressive advertiser.

And any big advertising spending may not last long anyway. Industry watchers expect the merger to speed up Read's plan for splitting the company into two parts, one focused on nonpatent or nearing the end of patent drugs, and the other on newer drugs with more IP protection.

- read the WSJ article (sub. req.)

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