The Art & Science of Creativity


Shift marks first big win for MDC Partners under Mark Penn; Stagwell-backed Code and Theory will also participate.

Johnson & Johnson has moved its Tylenol, Listerine and Zyrtec creative accounts to MDC Partners’ Doner and sister company Code and Theory from WPP’s Wunderman Thompson in the first major pickup for MDC since Mark Penn took charge as CEO and a major blow to Wunderman.

The accounts will get creative work from Code and Theory, according to people familiar with the matter, though J&J confirmed only the direct relationship with Doner. Code and Theory is backed by Stagwell Group, where Penn has remained as chairman after taking over as CEO of MDC in March following a $100 million investment in the company by Stagwell.

“Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health has decided to engage Doner to explore new creative options for advertising and digital marketing for our U.S. Self Care business, including creative work for Tylenol, Zyrtec and Listerine,” a J&J spokeswoman in a statement says. “We believe Doner offers the specialized attention needed to support our marketing and growth objectives for our Self Care business.

We look forward to partnering with this talented and diverse team.

Johnson & Johnson

The brands got $223 million in measured media support last year, according to Kantar.

A spokeswoman for Wunderman Thompson declined to comment. The move involves accounts that Wunderman, and its predecessor J. Walter Thompson, held for years or even decades, with Listerine having been in the agency’s hands across at least three corporate owners over 57 years.

Besides being the first major win for MDC shops under Penn, this is also the first major account shift since Alison Lewis left as chief marketing officer of J&J Consumer Health earlier this year. J&J didn’t replace her.

Given the apparent involvement of Code and Theory as well, it also answers a question on many minds since Penn became CEO of MDC in March—whether the two holding companies he oversees will work together.

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