By Arun Sudhaman

GLOBAL: Merck is progressing with plans to review its $50 million global roster of PR agencies, following its $41 billion merger with Schering Plough last year.

The company has also called a specific pitch for a corporate PR brief in emerging markets, in a bid to improve awareness and understanding of the newly-merged entity.

The Merck global RFI follows a review of the company’s PR agency relationships in Europe earlier this year. Tom Wells, managing partner at procurement consultancy Gyroscope, confirmed that his company is working with Merck on these processes but declined to provide specific details.

It is understood that Merck Schering Plough works with as many as 150 agencies and suppliers worldwide, including such firms as Cohn & Wolfe, Ketchum and WCG. A source involved in the review said that the global RFI asks major agency groups about their “capacities and capabilities, globally.”

The emerging markets pitch, meanwhile, is believed to focus on markets in Eastern Europe and Africa, where the company is known as Merck Sharp & Dohme, or MSD.

“They have a lot of work to establish their corporate brand and build goodwill before they can get the maximum value out of brand and product work,” said a source familiar with the situation, adding that Africa represents important growth potential for the pharma sector.

MSD Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa comms director Antonia Lang told the Holmes Report that it was not Merck’s policy to comment on agency reviews, “or on whether or not such reviews are taking place.”