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POWER 10: Bob Verdugo

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Company: Merial Ltd., a Merck/Rhone-Poulenc Co., Iselin, N.J.
Title: Senior Director-Marketing
Age: 41
Years at company: 9
Years in b-to-b marketing: 9

Marketing philosophy: "Understanding your customers' needs and addressing them with relevant and believable information is critical. We research our customers and then design integrated marketing and communications programs that capitalize on our brands' equity."

Last fall, when Merial Ltd. launched a new campaign for Ivomec, a medicine to control parasites that harm cattle, the 15-year-old product was facing increased competition.

"The battle had been between us and one other similar product," says Bob Verdugo, senior director-marketing at Merial. "Now there were two major branded competitors and a generic competitor."

With Ivomec still the category leader, Merial set out to boost the product's visibility and leverage its brand equity.

"This is an icon brand," Mr. Verdugo says. "Ivomec represents trust, pride and results--very much the persona of the American cattle rancher."

Assisted by J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, public relations agency Gibbs & Soell, New York, and Comprehensive Marketing, an Ewing, N.J.-based database firm, Merial created a multimedia, integrated communications approach for Ivomec, designed to reach cattle ranchers throughout rural America.

Merial's strategy included a number of consumer marketing techniques, Mr. Verdugo says. He and his marketing team devised a point-of-sale program that borrowed the "premium with purchase" incentive approach "often used in fragrance marketing to enhance visibility and shelf impact," he says. In Ivomec's case, application devices were offered. Also, Ivomec's packages were redesigned for greater eye appeal.

Mr. Verdugo and his team created Ivomec's first point-of-sale sweepstakes, with consumer-style tear-off pads on display boards, and a companion trade program with suppliers. Buyers were invited to try to win a pickup truck and to take advantage of a rebate offer, which came with a coupon book featuring 17 marketing partners.

Regional and local radio ads discussed Ivomec's functional benefits, as did the first TV spots for the product in five years. "We ran two new [TV] commercials in the traditional farm shows, but we also bought a variety of dayparts in rural markets," Mr. Verdugo says.

Merial ran Ivomec ads in vertical industry publications and bolstered its relationship marketing with users through direct sales calls, trade shows and special events held in conjunction with local animal-health suppliers and veterinarians.

"I'd love to say we were heavy into the Internet, too, but our target audience has an average age of about 59, and they haven't moved into that medium yet," Mr. Verdugo says. "We have a Web site for basic product information but have not yet implemented it for marketing."

Mr. Verdugo says Merial's global marketing team worked closely with his group to "leverage what we did in the U.S. and apply it to other markets if appropriate."

The campaign boosted Ivomec's market share, Mr. Verdugo says, and is a finalist for the Integrated Marketing Communications Campaign award from the National Agricultural Marketing Association.

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