DRUG PRODUCT SWAPS LEAD TO AGENCY SWITCHES: SHIFT OF NASALCROM, MOTRIN PUTS $50 MIL IN SPENDING UP FOR GRABS

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Brand trades between Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Consumer Products Co. and Pharmacia & Upjohn have left the estimated $30 million Nasalcrom allergy spray and $20 million Motrin IB pain reliever assignments up for grabs.

Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising's Healthcare Connection, New York, appears poised for the Motrin business acquired by McNeil, as the shop lost Nasalcrom in the trade. But Ammirati Puris Lintas also may be a contender for Motrin because it now handles Children's Motrin, marketed by McNeil since 1993 when it was still a prescription product.

A decision on the Motrin business is expected to be made this week.

OTHER BRANDS TRADED

Also traded in the deal were the Micatin anti-fungal line and the Pediacare children's brand of cough/cold products from McNeil parent Johnson & Johnson. In return for those, Pharmacia gave up Mycitracin anti-bacterial ointment.

The $9.5 million Micatin and $5.3 million Pediacare accounts are moving to W.B. Doner & Co., Southfield, Mich., which had handled Motrin for Pharmacia but will not keep it under McNeil.

"We did pick up two brands," said Alan Kalter, Doner CEO. "For us, it's basically a wash, so we're thrilled."

McNeil, the marketer of Tylen-ol, is intent on developing ibuprofen internationally, and acquired Motrin by giving up Nasalcrom, its newly launched over-the-counter entry.

"We wanted worldwide rights to Motrin," said a McNeil spokes-man.

"It is a wonderful opportunity for McNeil to take Motrin and possibly marry it with new technology to bring something extra to the brand," said Sue Coleman, president of NCI Consulting.

DEXIBUPROFEN OK AWAITED

One possibility the industry has been waiting on is governmental approval of dexibuprofen, which avoids the stomach problems some consumers experience with regular ibuprofen.

Until now, Tylenol has been an archrival of ibuprofen brands, leading to some nasty competitive claims battles with American Home Products Corp.'s Advil.

Under Pharmacia, Motrin IB followed No. 6 analgesic Bayer in sales, with a 3.7% increase to $82.4 million for the 52 weeks ended April 27, according to Information Resources Inc. This happened even as media support fell dramatically, from 1995's $38.2 million to just $16.6 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The current campaign for Nasalcrom, introduced OTC three months ago, was expected to last through fall via Healthcare Connection (AA, April 7). Contributing: Jean Halliday.

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