ARM & HAMMER BRAND FIGHTS TOOTHPASTE RIVALS: $20 MIL-PLUS CAMPAIGN ALSO FACES A NEW MENTADENT

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Rocked by a wave of heavily supported new toothpastes, Church & Dwight Co. is going on the offensive in an estimated $20 million-plus campaign to position its Arm & Hammer Dental Care brand's high baking soda content as a significant advantage.

The effort comes as rival Unilever readies a $15 million push, including TV and Internet advertising, for its new Mentadent Crystal Ice line.

"The competition has been particularly intense and the Arm & Hammer Dental Care line has lost some ground to new products launched by competitors," said Robert A. Davies III, Church & Dwight president-CEO.

The marketer won't disclose its budget for the new effort, but Mr. Davies warned investors earlier this month that marketing spending "will remain high for the rest of the year."

Armed with research that finds brands with the highest baking soda concentration are most effective in cleaning away plaque and deep stains, Church & Dwight will tout its 65% baking soda content. Although C&D said rivals have less baking soda -- Procter & Gamble Co.'s Crest Baking Soda Toothpaste has a 20% baking soda content, Colgate-Palmolive Co.'s Colgate Tartar Control 12% and Unilever's Mentadent 5% -- those brands won't be mentioned by name in the campaign, said James Daniels, category general manager for Arm & Hammer Dental Care.

`SERIOUS CLINICAL DATA'

Even so, Church & Dwight thinks the research will give a significant boost to the brand.

"It isn't just bells and whistles, this is serious clinical data," he said.

Creative, handled in-house, will "dramatically" demonstrate how Arm & Hammer's high-baking soda formula cleans better and gets into crevices to remove plaque and deep stains, he said.

R.J. Palmer, New York, is the media buyer.

The Mentadent Crystal Ice campaign, from Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, will break in October. Creative details weren't available, but packaging promises the brand will give "long-lasting fresh breath and whiter teeth," along with "advanced gumcare."

FLURRY OF LAUNCHES

The category has seen a stunning number of product launches, with Church & Dwight caught in the squeeze. Colgate is spending at the $100 million level for its Total brand, a figure P&G is believed to be matching for new Crest MultiCare.

In addition, Colgate has brought out Colgate Tartar Control whitening toothpaste and Crest an extra-whitening formula.

"Between the four, they've probably captured 20% of category volume year to date," said Mr. Daniels.

According to Information Resources Inc., the $1.6 billion dentifrice category grew 6.7% for the 52 weeks ended June 28 in food, drug and mass merchandisers.

Colgate was the biggest gainer, with 34.7% growth in sales, to $339.4 million. Crest was up 1.1% to $391.2 million, followed by SmithKline Beecham's Aquafresh at $178.5 million, up 6%. Mentadent comes in fourth with $166 million in sales, up 1%, while Arm & Hammer fell 11% to $99.6 million.

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