GSK Consumer Healthcare to prioritize digital after agency review

GSKThe company plans to look at how it can can engage with consumers and experts in a much more digital environment.

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare consolidated its agency roster as part of a drive to boost efficiencies and prioritize digital, a GSK executive said.

In an effort to meet growing digital demands and deliver efficiencies since it formed the Consumer Healthcare joint venture with Novartis in 2015, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare has consolidated nine shops on its global agency roster.

The new roster is made up of Grey and Saatchi & Saatchi for advertising; Havas Worldwide for advertising, digital, and content; Weber Shandwick for advertising, digital, content, and PR; WPP Digital, led by Wunderman, for content and digital; Edelman for content and PR; McCann Health and Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide for expert marketing; and Geometry for shopper marketing.

The drugmaker looked at agencies' capabilities, geographic footprint, and scalability in its selection process.

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All nine shops were already working with the drugmaker in varying capacities; the move provided an opportunity to review capabilities the agencies had that were not previously invested in, said Sarah Hodson, global business lead of communications and content at GSK Consumer Healthcare. For example, the consolidation allowed GSK Consumer Healthcare to expand their partnerships with Havas and WPP, with both agencies playing greater roles in digital.

“From a content perspective, Edelman and Weber Shandwick will be increasing their work in that space,” continued Hodson. “McCann Health will be looking after oral health, respiratory, skin health, and nutrition; and Ogilvy CommonHealth will support pain relief.”

Among the key priorities of the revised setup was modernizing its strategy around digital marketing. The company plans to look at how it can can engage with consumers and experts in a much more digital environment.

“Out of the three digital agencies we've got, we believe that they have the best capabilities to help us increase digital marketing, both from a data analytics perspective to how we use that insight, to providing innovative technology,” said Hodson. “Weber Shandwick worked on Excedrin, [for] which we won several Cannes Lion awards. Flonase, our allergy treatment was driven through digital, and we want to learn from those experiences, given digital is a priority for us within consumer healthcare.”

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Hodson declined to share the digital budget, but she said the company increased its investments “significantly,” both in terms of marketing and data analytics.

“We have social listening capability in-house, which can provide us real-time insights to see what consumers are saying about our brands, the investments that we've made, and we're training programs around the core brands,” she said.

In 2014 GSK and Novartis announced a three-tiered deal that allowed GSK to acquire Novartis's global vaccines business, create the Consumer Healthcare joint venture (GSK has majority control), and divest its oncology business to Novartis. With the integration with Novartis completed in 2015, GSK Consumer Healthcare is now focused on delivering efficiency in its marketing efforts, noted Hodson.

“It's really about how we can simplify our agency roster so we can improve speed-to-market, minimizing duplication across our organization,” she said. “By having less agencies but what we need in terms of capabilities, we can get them to work more effectively together, as we're seeing more significant shift in balance. And then the benefit of that is there are financial savings, because we invest those savings in media work.”

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The nine agencies will work on GSK Consumer Healthcare's seven top-tier brands and twelve core brands, which the company expects will deliver 90% of its future growth. The seven top-tier brands include painkiller Voltaren, toothpaste brand Sensodyne, and over-the-counter cold and flu treatment Theraflu.  The twelve core brands include the pain reliever Excedrin and allergy spray Flonase.

GSK Consumer Healthcare's markets are divided across 13 areas around the world. The different markets “were a key part of the evaluation but none of them were more important than each other,” said Hodson. “Brexit has not had a bearing on the specifics of the agency review.”

The transition will take place over a period of time, noted Hodson. “There's no disruption to our existing marketing plans at the moment,” she said. “In some cases, we're already working with the agencies. It will just shape our plans moving forward.”