Despite ongoing acquisitions, the 1970s were turbulent for Warner-Lambert. The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission accused it of making illegal international payments; its American Chicle plant in New York was the site of an explosion; and its Benylin cough syrup lost its over-the-counter status for a time after the Food & Drug Administration raised questions about it.
In 1978, the company purchased Entenmann's Bakery, which became its most profitable division, but eventually Warner-Lambert sold Entenmann's to General Foods Corp.
Financial instability led the company to restructure in 1979. It sold off several subsidiaries, closed plants and cut its staff in half. While those efforts helped the company's financial status, a combination of events including consumer trends toward herbals and away from traditional medications, the healthcare reform movement, a recession in the late 1980s and falling consumer-goods prices proved deleterious to the company and, in 1991, it once again was forced to restructure. It again laid off staff and consolidated its operations into two units—pharmaceuticals and consumer products.
During the late 1980s and early '90s, Warner-Lambert's profit margins were low compared with others in the industry. The company invested $1.3 billion in advertising and promotion and $473 million in research and development in 1992, when consumer goods accounted for 60% of annual sales.
In 1993, the company was the first to market with Cognex, an FDA-approved drug that slowed the development of Alzheimer's disease. It also created an alliance with rivals Glaxo and Wellcome to help all three quickly move their products from prescription to over-the-counter to generic status.
First sugarless gum
One consumer brand that Warner-Lambert has heavily advertised is Sugarless Trident gum. Introduced in 1962 by American Chicle (acquired by Warner-Lambert that same year), Trident was the first sugarless chewing gum, and it transformed the industry.
From the beginning, Trident's ads touted its cavity-fighting properties and good taste. Its first tagline was "Four out of five dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum."
In 1986, Warner-Lambert began to publicize research showing that Trident gum could prevent cavities if chewed after eating sugary snacks, spending $15 million to promote the message. It marked the first time a gum was able to make such a claim to dentists and consumers.
But the market was becoming more competitive, with 21 new gum products, many of them sugarless, debuting in 1991 alone. At the same time, other products from toothpastes to fluoridated water also were able to prevent cavities. Consumers not only demanded cavity protection, they also wanted long-lasting flavor and fresh breath. Trident began to focus on those properties in ads with the tagline, "All that good stuff and great taste, too."
In 1998, Warner-Lambert introduced Trident Advantage gum, spending $20 million to support the extension. It was the first gum to make clinical whitening claims. Its tagline: "As exciting as oral hygiene gets." J. Walter Thompson Co. handled the advertising.
Trident expanded into the children's market in 1999 with Trident for Kids. McDonald's Corp. distributed 5 million samples in the chain's Happy Meals for two months and highlighted the product on 26 million tray liners, while elementary schools and Toys "R" Us distributed another 6 million samples.
The extension was marketed to parents in a $5 million print campaign, emphasizing the product's clinically proven teeth-strengthening abilities, in 17 magazines, including Woman's Day, Parenting, Family Fun and People, as well as in 24 million free-standing inserts offering a buy-one-get-one deal.
In 2001, Warner-Lambert extended the Trident Advantage brand into mints, supported with a $15 million ad campaign and sampling. JWT handled the brand.
Certs with Retsyn
Another leading consumer brand for Warner-Lambert is Certs, a breath-freshening mint supported by TV and sampling. When it was introduced in 1956 by American Chicle, it was the first product to both provide good taste and freshen breath. It contained Retsyn, a homogenized vegetable oil and one of the ingredients of chlorophyll.
In 1960, Ted Bates & Co. hit on the tagline "Two, two, two mints in one," which pointed to both the great taste and fresh breath attributes of the product. In 1982, Sugarfree Certs was introduced, aimed at women seeking fewer calories. New Sugarfree Certs, with NutraSweet, debuted in 1987. In the late 1980s and early '90s, Warner-Lambert launched Sugarfree Mini-Mints, to compete with Tic Tacs; Certs Fresh Fruit; and Certs Blizzards Mints, for older consumers who wanted stronger breath protection. Extra Flavor Certs, which were 10% larger than regular Certs, debuted in 1993.
During the late 1970s and the '80s, several other taglines were used, including, "Be certain with Certs," which focused on romance; "Get Certs. Get closer," a more humorous romantic theme; and "The Certs encounter." The launch campaign for Sugarfree Certs in 1982 featured a drop of Retsyn hitting the mint and splashing up as a gold liquid.
Warner-Lambert also is a significant player in the over-the-counter remedy market. Its Neosporin brand was positioned to emphasize its scar-reducing properties and began a print and TV campaign to promote that feature. Bates USA was the agency.
Warner-Lambert's Rolaids antacid advertising is best known for its "R-O-L-A-I-D-S Spells Relief" campaign, a long-running effort created by Bates that has featured endorsers such as Major League Baseball manager Tommy Lasorda.
In 1999, the marketer's Halls Defense line of supplements introduced a vitamin C product with a campaign that included radio, TV, billboards and FSIs. The campaign highlighted the fact that Halls contained 100% of the recommended daily requirement of vitamin C. It starred two new ad icons—a computer-generated Old Man Winter and an animated football player called the Halls Defense linebacker.
Warner-Lambert is also a player in the $4 billion-and-growing herbal remedy market with its Quanterra brand. It adopted the industrywide trend of specifying uses for its herbal supplements, such as its Quanterra Sinus Defense product introduced in 2000. While herbal remedies are not regulated by the FDA, Quanterra became the first brand to tout clinical proof of its claims in a 1998 campaign from Bates USA with the tagline, "If it's not clinically proven, it's not Quanterra."
During the 1990s, drug marketers increased their consumer ad efforts. New FDA rules went into effect in 1997 that allowed direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription products for the first time. Several Warner-Lambert brands benefited, including the company's cholesterol-lowering drug, Lipitor, sales for which in 1999 increased 56% over the previous year, reaching $2.6 billion. The company's consumer ad expenditures for Lipitor increased from $7.8 million in 1998 to $55.4 million in 1999, ranking it among the top 10 pharmaceutical brands in spending.
In 1999, Warner-Lambert was purchased by Pfizer Inc. Warner-Lambert ranked No. 11 in ad spending among all national advertisers in 1999 (premerger), devoting a total of $1.1 billion to media, $386.5 million of that in measured media.