J&J TO POLISH PUBLIC IMAGE WITH CELEB ADS: CHILD-THEMED TV SPOTS WARM UP MARKETER'S SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

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Staid Johnson & Johnson will crank up the star power in a new campaign to elevate its stature as a trusted and benevolent company.

The healthcare conglomerate is producing a corporate-image TV campaign featuring author Toni Morrison, singer/composer Randy Newman, and actors Christopher Reeve and Ray Romano.

The four commercials, to break before yearend, are expected to feel like public service announcements and promote child-oriented themes while conveying the good corporate citizen message.

READING, FAITH

For example, Ms. Morrison, a Pulitzer-prize-winning author, is expected to plug the importance of reading to a child; Mr. Reeve, who was paralyzed in a 1995 horse-riding accident, will plug the merits of faith; and Mr. Romano, a comedian and star of the CBS show "Everybody Loves Raymond," will speak about the joys of laughing with a child.

The idea for the star-studded campaign came from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, said an executive with knowledge of J&J's plans. The agency won the J&J corporate account earlier this year from DeVito Fitterman Advertising, New York.

J&J and McCann declined comment.

J&J, with 188 operating companies in 52 countries, employs a multitude of roster shops in the U.S. alone, including DDB Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi and Ammirati Puris Lintas, all New York.

The spots with Ms. Morrison and Mr. Reeve have been shot, the executive said. The ad with Mr. Romano was scheduled to be filmed Oct. 16. It was not clear when Mr. Newman's spot would be filmed.

CONTRIBUTION

Mr. Reeve is the director of the four commercials. His compensation package is expected to include contributions to the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.

The campaign fits within the recent movement of companies using TV efforts to strengthen their image, highlighted by Philip Morris Cos.' launch last week of a campaign touting its charity work.

"Companies are realizing consumers really do value, and pay attention to, not only whether it's a good product, but if the product is brought to you by a good company," said Diane Cook-Tench, director of the Adcenter at Virginia Commonwealth University.

A budget for the campaign could not be determined at deadline. J&J spent $658.8 million in measured media in 1998, of which $13.3 million was for corporate ads, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE

The campaign falls in line with J&J's carefully cultivated image as socially responsible. J&J says it gives away more than $176 million in cash and product contributions annually and touts its corporate credo, which details its commitment to more than the bottom line.

"They consider it a huge asset that they have that reputation," said Anne Malone, an analyst with Salomon Smith Barney.

'YOUR TOUCH'

Traditionally, J&J has tried to capitalize on its well-known fleet of children's products, including its baby powder, baby oil and baby shampoo, in ad efforts to bolster its corporate image.

TV spots last year from DeVito Fitterman focused on Mother's Day and Father's Day, while print ran in a special issue of Newsweek devoted to child rearing. The tag "Your touch and Johnson & Johnson, all the care in the world" was employed.

J&J, with $23.7 billion in annual sales, has several new products that have helped it achieve record second-quarter earnings this year. Those include an over-the-counter version of dandruff shampoo Nizoral (the product was sold only by prescription until this spring) and the cholesterol-lowering line of Benecol foods.

Before it took on the corporate account, McCann already handled women's health products and the Band-Aid brand, among other assignments from J&J. McCann also brought a dash of celebrity to J&J by using model Kim Alexis in a TV effort for Monistat.

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