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Pfizer's Time To Quit

Pfizer is quitting the ad agency that tried to tell smokers it's their time to quit.

Source: Chantix.com

According to AdWeek,the world's biggest drug company is dumping McCann HumanCare, which is part of Interpublic Group , for Mcgarry Bowen, which is a subsidiary of the Tokyo-traded ad giant Dentsu. PFE reportedly spent more than $60 million pushing the stop-smoking drug, Chantix last year.

In addition to the Lipitor challenge, the overwhelmingly negative market reaction this week to the Wyeth acquisition (PFE shares are down about 15 percent since the deal was announced), what once looked like a solid new growth driver for Pfizer has sputtered over safety concerns.

Earlier this week PFE said it sold $180 million worth of Chantix in the fourth quarter. That's down 36 percent from the same period the year before. And it's $2 million less than it sold in the third quarter of 2008.

So, at a time when you'd think there might be some stocking up of Chantix ahead of new year's resolution time, Chantix sales went down, not up.

A Pfizer rep tells AdWeek, "The needs of the Chantix brand continue to evolve. Mcgarrybowen presented us with very innovative ideas that we feel best meet the needs of this brand at this time." I wonder if that evolution means that Chantix marketing people won't have to freeze their butts off anymore in Times Square.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com