ESTABLISHED BRANDS ATTEMPT TO STEM THE TIDE OF POPULAR ACID BLOCKERS

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Established antacid marketers, losing sales to highly successful new acid blockers, are fighting back by spending a combined $55 million-plus on new advertising.

Ciba Self Medication last week broke a $25 million campaign for "One Minute Maalox" via Grey Advertising, New York. Those ads directly take on acid blockers and come on the heels of a $16 million campaign from BBDO Worldwide for Bayer Corp.'s Alka-Seltzer and Warner-Lambert Co.'s $14 million push behind Rolaids from J. Walter Thompson USA.

Those will be followed by a new campaign for Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pepto-Bismol, expected to launch by the end of this month via Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, and Johnson & Johnson/Merck's spots for a children's version of Mylanta, expected to receive an estimated $7 million campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Connection, New York (AA, May 27).

QUICK PAIN RELIEF

A unifying theme among the new antacid ads will be quick pain relief, a method of setting them apart from the many acid blockers, also known as H2s.

"It's self-preservation from the OTCs against the H2s," said Bruce Hall, Maalox brand manager.

J&J/Merck's acid blocker, Pepcid AC, is king of the $1.45 billion category, with sales of $244 million and a 16.8% share, followed by SmithKline Beecham's Tums, down 2.7% to $159.2 million and an 11% share for the year ended May 26, according to Information Resources Inc. Mylanta plummeted 17.6% to $151.9 million and a 10.5% share, while SmithKline Beecham's acid blocker Tagamet snagged an 8.5% share and $122.8 million.

McNeil Pharmaceuticals' Imodium was an uncommon gainer among the antacids, increasing sales 6.3% to $109.4 million and a 7.6% share. Pepto, meanwhile, dropped 8.5% to $97.9 million and a 6.8% share and Maalox fell 14.4% to $84.9 million for a 5.9% share. Alka-Seltzer slipped 6.6% to $66.9 million and a 4.6% share; Rolaids tumbled 10% to $66.2 million and 4.6% of the category.

Warner Wellcome's Zantac 75, introduced a few months ago, reportedly already registered a 15% share of category sales in May alone, putting it in second place. The brand is backed by a $125 million campaign from JWT.

More acid blocker competition is coming. American Home Products Corp.'s Axid AR began hitting shelves last week. A campaign from Young & Rubicam will break this month, upping the spending ante by tens of millions of dollars.

MAALOX VS. PEPCID AC

In its new spot, Maalox takes on Pepcid AC in a direct comparison to stress its 1-minute action. Citing a 1993 study, Mr. Hall said 72% of consumers said speed of action is extremely important.

"It really brings to life the advantage over H2s," he said.

ACID BLOCKERS' FIREPOWER

Despite the defensive efforts of established antacids, acid blockers have a combined marketing firepower of more than $300 million and a prescription heritage that so far has resulted in heavy wins in the category.

"H2 blockers have sapped the efficacy from" antacids, said Chet Kane, managing partner of consultancy Kane, Bortree & Associates. "And their new efforts are not going to be a substantive strategy. Most people understand they're just a short-term solution.'

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