DESENEX LIGHTENS UP IN $9.5 MIL CAMPAIGN: AD FINDS HUMOR IN ATHLETE'S FOOT

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Hoping to turn around and even boost its 34-year-old Desenex athlete's foot brand, Novartis today launches a $9.5 million campaign that takes a humorous approach.

"We were too heavy-handed with consumers" in the past, said Jeff Sternstein, Desenex brand manager. "Athlete's foot is annoying, but it certainly isn't life-threatening. It lends itself to a humorous approach."

New advertising from Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, New York, follows two construction workers, precariously perched on a building site. The one with itchy feet falls into wet cement, unfazed, and continues to scratch. The tag-line, "The soothing cure."

The campaign is expected to run on network TV and cable through October.

GOING AFTER NEW USERS

"This new positioning has a high potential to bring in new users and differentiates us from the competition," said Mr. Sternstein, who noted that athlete's foot strikes males more often. "They wear more close-toed shoes."

Before its merger with Sandoz Pharmaceutical to form Novartis, Ciba Consumer Pharmaceutical ex-tended Desenex with a "prescription strength" over-the-counter ver-sion in 1995; that got the brand's only ad support for two years.

Mr. Sternstein attributed the change to full-brand advertising to the merger.

"There's a new, disciplined approach at Novartis and you're seeing the impact of

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