Hot-selling arthritis brand taps success

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In just two years, Rexall Sundown's Osteo Bi-Flex brand has moved quickly up the ranks of the growing $1.5 billion mineral supplements market.

Sales are nearing $100 million, and last week it broke new TV spots that play up that success.

The commercials from Avrett, Free & Ginsberg, New York, tout Osteo Bi-Flex's healing abilities. They feature a composite arthritis sufferer, compiled from what was said to be thousands of letters Rexall received from consumers about the effectiveness of the product.

The brand is supported with an annual ad budget of from $15 million to $20 million; that's up from a $3 million launch effort. The initial campaign simply introduced the Osteo Bi-Flex brand.

CATEGORY UP 32%

The category grew 32% for the 52 weeks ended in Feb. 28; Osteo Bi-Flex's growth was 255% in dollar sales for the same time period, according to Information Resources Inc. It ranks third in total dollar sales behind private labels generally and Sundown Herbals supplements, according to IRI.

"As baby boomers age, this market is only going to get bigger," said Bert Rosenberg, account group director at Avrett. "The good thing about modern medicine is that people live longer; the bad thing is they are ravaged with the problems of age."

The agency chose to run testimonial-style advertising based on the letters because "research told us that people buy certain products because they're recommended by a doctor or recommended by a friend," said Mr. Rosenberg. "This testimonial is the closest we can come to that."

Copyright April 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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