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By Published on .

With a new marketing plan emphasizing its preventive uses, Bayer aspirin has a made a surprise comeback after years of sagging sales.

Bayer Corp. reacquired the brand from Sterling Winthrop in 1994, and much of the credit for the rebound is given to advertising from BBDO Worldwide, New York.


Bayer had experienced 5% to 8% annual sales declines over the past several years. But sales for the year ended July 28 increased 11.4%, to $122.8 million, according to Information Resources Inc.

The BBDO-created campaign promotes aspirin's uses in relieving arthritis and easing heart conditions. Other factors in the turnaround are potential health problems associated with other analgesics, many brought up during the much-publicized Tylenol vs. Advil ad wars.

"It is a wonder drug with good, solid marketing and science behind it," said Gary Stibel, partner at New England Consulting Group. They "shouldn't have let it atrophy for years-it cost them millions."

Bayer soon will be marketing two analgesics. Last week, Roche Holding and Bayer disclosed an agreement in which Bayer will take over marketing of Procter & Gamble Co.'s Aleve pain reliever and Femstat-3 yeast infection remedy. Roche acquired the two from P&G in July.

That will give Bayer the No. 4 (Aleve) and No. 6 (Bayer) brands in the flat $2.7 billion analgesics category. Media support behind Aleve was about $69 million in 1995, through P&G shop D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York. That's expected by industry consultants to fall dramatically as Bayer takes over marketing by yearend.

"They need to allow some time for the dust to settle and come back with a micromarketing approach-which P&G should've done," Mr. Stibel said.


Richard Frank, general manager of Bayer's U.S. over-the-counter business, declined to comment about spending levels, but did say DMB&B and Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, with the $25 million Femstat-3 account, are to keep those accounts for now.

"Our plan is to work with the agencies and we'd be pleased to keep working with them as we get started," Mr. Frank said.

Aspirin sales are one of the few bright spots in the analgesics category. Another is Pharmacia & Upjohn's Motrin IB, with sales rocketing 47.5% to $126.8 million, just ahead of Bayer aspirin.

Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol ranks first with $794.4 million in sales, down 1.8%. American Home Products Corp.'s Advil is at $333.4 million, falling 2.3%, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s third-ranked Excedrin increased 3.1%, to $177.3 million.

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