COLGATE, J&J TO POUR $30 MIL INTO TOOTHBRUSH EXTENSIONS

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Colgate-Palmolive Co. and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products are about to go head-to-head on smaller heads in the $550 million toothbrush market.

Their new products, Colgate Plus Ultra Fit Compact Head and J&J's Reach Plaque Sweeper, will be supported with a total of more than $30 million in marketing.

Advertising for Colgate's entry breaks in the second quarter, while support for Reach Plaque Sweeper starts in mid-March.

Neither product will use magazine advertising, relying instead on TV and couponing. Colgate also will sample through dental professionals and will advertise on Spanish-language TV.

Young & Rubicam and Siboney USA, both New York, handle Colgate; McCann-Erickson Worldwide handles Reach.

BRISTLING WITH GROWTH

The new products come as the toothbrush category continues to grow, rising 10% in 1995. Spurring this new competition: Gillette Co.'s Oral-B brand gained ground with its different-size toothbrush heads and the Oral-B Advantage. That brush helped make Oral-B the top selling brand, with a 22.8% share, edging past Colgate and its 22.2% share.

J&J had a 15.5% share, while Procter & Gamble Co.'s Crest had 12.8% and SmithKline Beecham's Aqua-fresh 5.8%, according to A.C. Nielsen Co.

Chesebrough-Pond's new Mentadent toothbrush has shown promise of being a strong competitor, earning an 8% share in January.

BARBIE BRUSH

Colgate, which also will introduce the Colgate Total Youth brush and Colgate Plus Barbie, is expected to spend $40 million on toothbrush marketing this year. Half of that budget will go to Colgate Plus Ultra, introduced but not supported in 1995, and the new Colgate Plus Ultra Fit Compact Head, designed for teens and adults with smaller mouths.

"Superpremium toothbrushes and kids toothbrushes are driving category growth," said Steve White, Colgate's toothbrush marketing director. "In response to that, Colgate Plus and Colgate Total are introducing line extensions incorporating those benefits that are driving growth."

MULTILEVEL BRISTLES

The benefits primarily consist of multilevel bristles in the superpremium segment, and decals and licensed products in the kids segment.

J&J is expected to spend more than $20 million on marketing behind all its toothbrushes, with more than $10 million for Reach Plaque Sweeper to be advertised on network and cable TV.

`DOUBLING OUR EFFORTS'

Liz Scull, J&J product director for toothbrushes, wouldn't confirm spending but noted: "We are doubling our efforts vs. a year ago. And in addition to [newspaper free standing inserts] and advertising, will be cross-promoting with our Tylenol and Neutrogena brands."

The new toothbrush, which has a slim head and has tested well in plaque removal, is being introduced at about the same time as Reach Floss Gentle Gum Care.

The floss also is geared toward plaque removal, featuring a patented weblike construction that slides easily between teeth before expanding. McCann handles.

WAITING ON FDA

In toothpastes, meanwhile, Colgate is awaiting a Food & Drug Administration subcommittee meeting scheduled for this week that will help determine whether its triclosan/fluoride toothpaste Total-which its Total toothbrushes are named after-is introduced in the U.S.

Total has been a big success throughout the rest of the world, where it's marketed by the company as a global brand.

Approval in the U.S. would make it truly global and set off a rush to market similar products by other oral-care marketers.

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