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Novartis Consumer Health launches a marketing effort today for a new over-the-counter athlete's foot treatment that looks and feels like a campaign for a sports drink.

The $15 million to $20 million TV and print effort for Lamisil AT, a former prescription cream, features energetic, sculpted athletes playing basketball, running, biking and lifting weights.

The initial TV spot is fast-moving with hard-driving music in the background and includes close-ups of a high-tech basketball shoe. Print highlights the words "strength, speed and endurance," three qualities Novartis claims Lamisil offers more of than its competitors.


"This medicine is all about performance and that's what the athleticism brings to it," said David Cohen, senior VP-group creative director at Grey Advertising, New York, which did the campaign, targeted at males 20 and older.

Novartis is positioning Lamisil as the only OTC athlete's foot product that effectively treats the condition in one week, instead of the four weeks recommended by competitors Tinactin and Lotrimin from Schering-Plough and Micatin from Pharmacia & Upjohn.

Product shots of those rivals are shown in the TV spot for Lamisil. Novartis' Desenex, which also carries a four-week recommendation, doesn't make an appearance.

Lotrimin is the market leader in the $280 million category, with $57.8 million in sales in 1998, according to Information Resources Inc. Tinactin is No. 2, with $43.4 million, Desenex is third with $32.8 million, private label came in fourth with $29 million while Micatin had $15.4 million.


In an attempt to stem share cannibalization with the introduction of Lamisil, Novartis late last month launched a TV campaign for Desenex, also from Grey.

Novartis is hoping to capitalize on its data that show 85% of consumers use OTC athlete's foot treatments for two weeks or less.

"There's finally a drug that needs to be used the way consumers currently behave, which as a marketer is the ultimate -- when you can fill a consumer's need and not have to get them to change their behavior," said Barry Cohen, Novartis' category director for dermatologicals.

Lamisil will remain available by prescription only in tablet form for toenail fungus and in spray form for athlete's foot, though Novartis' Mr. Cohen said the

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