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INITIAL SALES TALLY FOR J&J'S RENOVA DISAPPOINTING;LACK OF ADS CONTRIBUTE TO BRAND'S SLOW START

By Published on .

Johnson & Johnson's Ortho Pharmaceuticals may be wondering about its wonder drug-the anti-wrinkle prescription skin cream called Renova.

Introduced in February with a marketing war chest said to exceed $30 million, Renova was widely projected by financial analysts and others to snare first-year sales of $100 million, a figure J&J did not dispute.

JUST $10.9 MILLION SALES

However, Renova's prescription sales have hit just $10.9 million through July, according to researcher IMS America. And wholesale data from IMS for January through June show Renova at $12.44 million, suggesting that retail sell-in outstripped consumer demand.

Executives close to J&J acknowledge the marketer is disappointed but, in the words of one, "not yet panicked."

Behind the slow start, some experts say, are both a reluctance on the part of doctors to prescribe Renova, given its tendency to cause sun-sensitive reactions in some users, and the lack of initial advertising.

Although Renova was launched last winter, advertising from DDB Needham Worldwide, New York, didn't start until June because of the necessary clearance from the Food & Drug Administration.

Over the past eight weeks, industry executives estimate, J&J has spent just $5 million on media support.

`EARLY IN THE GAME'

"We don't discuss sales of individual products, but it's very early in the game," said a J&J spokesman. "We are only eight weeks into the ad campaign.

"But Renova is a great product, and we have a lot of confidence in it. As always we will continue to evaluate and fine-tune the marketing mix."

PROMISING FUTURE?

At least one consultant thinks Renova's slow start is only a temporary wrinkle.

"I'm surprised it's sold that much, since advertising just started," said Gary Stibel, partner at the New England Consulting Group. "J&J has managed it to be a slow start by intent. Women have been lied to over and over again in this category, and they want to be sure people aren't overpromised.

"It will grow and be much more successful in a year or two because it will do better after trial, unlike many other products."

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