Sanofi, the French pharmaceuticals giant that is involved in the search for a coronavirus vaccine, has kicked off a global media agency review despite the pandemic.
Havas is the incumbent in North America and WPP’s Mindshare manages the business in most of the rest of the world.
Industry sources say Sanofi has contacted major agency holding companies about the review, although the company did not respond to a request for comment.
MediaSense is understood to be advising on the pitch but would not comment.
Campaign previously reported that Sanofi spent an estimated €900m (£820m) on media at the time of its last media review in 2017.
Sanofi brands include stomach medicine Buscopan, diarrhoea treatment Dioralyte and allergy eye-drop Opticrom.
The company said it had 6.6% revenue growth in the first quarter of 2020 and is "well-positioned to navigate" the pandemic, given demand from the health sector, including the development of "vaccine candidates and therapeutics" to combat Covid-19.
'Underappreciation for digital marketing'
Paul Hudson, the British-born chief executive of Sanofi, has been in charge since September 2019, after joining from Novartis, and has a background in sales and marketing roles at GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Synthelabo UK.
Hudson indicated during Sanofi’s most recent earnings call that the company plans to step up investment in online marketing and do less face-to-face communication in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
"There was always an underappreciation for digital marketing," Hudson said, noting that both doctors and pharma companies were used to face-to-face meetings in person.
There is now an "appetite for healthcare professionals to get information digitally", although he expects a mix of digital and face to face – "what we call high touch and high tech" – in a post-virus world.
That should allow Sanofi "to be more efficient, to lower the overall cost to serve a healthcare professional or to broaden our reach at the same cost", Hudson explained.
About 20,000 people, or more than 20% of Sanofi’s staff, work in marketing and other support functions.
Before the 2017 review, Publicis Media’s Zenith handled the majority of Sanofi’s media planning and buying.