Listerine breath strips break oral care boundaries

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Warner-Lambert will introduce a new line of Listerine breath-freshening strips next fall with a $20 million launch campaign.

The new product, Listerine PocketPaks, will reach stores in Summer, backed by print, TV, sampling, couponing and direct marketing efforts. Warner-Lambert has budgeted $39 million in media spending for PocketPaks over its first 12 months, including a $20 million kickoff effort that is expected to break Sept. 14 and last through the fourth quarter.

J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, agency for the Listerine brand, will handle the launch.

The marketer also plans to distribute 50 million samples of the strips during the first 12 months after the launch. Samples will be attached to bottles of Lubriderm skin lotion and Listerine mouthwash and also will be distributed via direct mail and dental offices.

According to trade materials, the ads will make an appeal based on Listerine's positioning as germ-killing oral care, not simply a breath freshener. JWT is still working out details on the campaign, but sales materials tout the product as "Good news for mouths, bad news for germs," and the tagline "A new state of mouth."

Warner-Lambert executives could not be reached at press time.

STRIPS DISSOLVE ON TONGUE

PocketPaks are thin, alcohol- and sugar-free strips that dissolve on the tongue and deliver the same germ-killing ingredients as in Listerine mouthwash. Warner-Lambert claims the strips fight odor-causing bacteria for up to an hour and will control bad breath for up to 90 minutes. Prices will range from $1.49 for a 16-count package to $3.99 for a package of three 24-count dispensers.

Listerine, which single-handedly made halitosis a dreaded condition in a 1923 advertising campaign, leads the $679.3 million mouthwash segment with 43.3% of the market, according to Information Resources Inc.

The 120-year-old brand has extended its offerings in recent years, with new flavors such as Cool Mint and Fresh Burst and products such as tartar control mouthwash and Listerine Cool Mint toothpaste and gel.

But the mouthwash market has grown only 1.8%, from $667.5 million in annual sales in 1995, while the market for oral care gums rose from $117.3 million in 1998-when Church & Dwight extended its baking-soda toothpaste with Arm & Hammer Dental Care gum-to $168.4 million in 1999.

Rival oral care brands also are exploring the market. SmithKline Beecham this spring plans to extend its Aquafresh line into gums, and Procter & Gamble Co. is testing an oral care gum under its Crest brand.

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