Leading the charge: Glaxo Wellcome's Imitrex was the first migraine drug to use direct-to-consumer advertising. OVER THE COUNTER OR BEHIND IT, MIGRAINE RELIEVERS MAKE NOISE: NEW BRANDS TO FUEL $120 MIL IN AD SUPPORT FOR CATEGORY

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Consumers are about to be pounded by a potential onslaught of more than $120 million in migraine-targeted ads from new brands Zomig, Migranal and Maxalt, joining Excedrin Migraine and Imitrex.

"This market is going to get noisy," said Steve Buckanage, director of marketing at Zeneca Pharmaceuticals. "The category is really going to expand."

Grey Advertising, New York, last week landed Zeneca's estimated $30 million consumer ad account for its new prescription migraine remedy Zomig.

MIGRANAL INTRO

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.'s Migranal nasal spray may get consumer ad support later this year, but there has been no agency assignment as yet. A February introduction event featured Super Bowl MVP Terrell Davis of the Denver Broncos, who is likely to appear in future direct-to-consumer efforts.

Merck & Co. awaits governmental approval of its migraine remedy, Maxalt, already assigned to Ogilvy & Mather, New York.

These DTC campaigns will follow the estimated $30 million effort that broke late last month for the first over-the-counter migraine remedy, an extension of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Excedrin.

The marketing bar was set by a continuing $35 million effort from Saatchi & Saatchi's Klemtner Advertising, New York, that was the first in the category, for Glaxo Wellcome's prescription Imitrex. That brand has been available since 1993 as an injection and added a tablet version in 1995 -- when it began its DTC efforts. A nasal spray was added last fall.

IMITREX SALES UP 44%

Imitrex had 1997 U.S. sales of $805 million, a 44% increase over the previous year, Glaxo said.

These ad efforts are meant to raise awareness of the difference between run-of-the-mill headaches and migraines, which are more intense and can cause nausea.

Pharmaceutical companies estimate at least half of migraine sufferers

go undiagnosed.

While most migraine treatments are prescription, Bristol-Myers

Squibb got a new OTC claim approved by the Food & Drug Administration

in mid-January, even though the product is the same. Excedrin

Migraine received its own packaging and a dedicated campaign from

Bozell Worldwide, New York.

While praising the extension idea as genuine news in the flat OTC

pain reliever category, some industry observers still wonder how

Excedrin Migraine will play out.

"It's very interesting," said Paul Kelly, partner at Silvermine

Consulting. "It says it's the same product. They'll get additional

shelf space and I guess that comes first, even if you run the risk of

confusing the consumer."

The FDA hoped to avoid misunderstandings by requiring that

Bristol-Myers Squibb have separate symptom information on the

Excedrin extension.

No. 3 Excedrin is one of the few brands that have enjoyed growth in

the $2.5 billion OTC market, up more than 9% to $142.2 million in

sales for the year ended Feb. 1, according to Information Resources

Inc. The brand has done well with a message focused on headaches,

even though ad spending fell 20% to $47.5 million through November

1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol, its No. 1 position surpassed by sales

of all private-label analgesics for the first time late last year,

still commands nearly 23% of the market. But sales of $569.3 million

were down 0.9%.

Following highly publicized shots at American Home Products Corp.'s

Advil brand, J&J last October began running ads from Saatchi &

Saatchi's Healthcare Connection, New York, targeting Excedrin, which

uses caffeine as an active ingredient.

"Tylenol has taken its lumps in the last few years," said Mr.

Kelly. "You'd think the Advil [effort], which didn't take them

anywhere, would've taught them."

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