Omnicom Group Elbows Into Medical Testing

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Omnicom Group, New York, to position itself in the growing direct-to-consumer healthcare marketplace, will purchase a minority interest in Scirex, Philadelphia, a clinical trials research business valued at $60 million.

Omnicom, the corporate parent of BBDO Worldwide and DDB Worldwide advertising agencies, will pay $20 million for its stake in Scirex, which contracts consumer information, research and analysis services to pharmaceutical developers. The agreement is similar to one recently completed by Interpublic's Lowe Group, which acquired International Pharmaceutical Research, Stanford, CT, for an undisclosed amount early last month. And just last week, DJM, London, an Internet design and marketing communications company focusing on healthcare, announced it was combining forces with Mednet Media, a direct marketing agency that helps connect physicians, patients and service organizations through its medical Web site.

Tom Harrison, chairman/CEO of diversified services at Omnicom, said the industry trend of purchasing healthcare-related companies would likely continue despite the risk that conflict-of-interest issues may eventually be raised by watchdog groups. But Harrison said he didn't see any immediate publicity challenges for the advertising and marketing industry.

Harrison says Omnicom has a strategic interest in participating in the development of brands' identities as more of its competitors position themselves in the overall direct-to-consumer healthcare market.

"One never knows, but I really don't envision that there are going to be any problems in this area," says Harrison. "This is about getting involved early on in the life cycle of healthcare brands."

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