McNeil pairs conditioner with anti-dandruff brand

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In its bid to position Nizoral A-D as a looks-enhancer as much as a flake-fighter, McNeil Consumer Healthcare this fall plans to launch a conditioner to go along with its anti-dandruff shampoo.

The Johnson & Johnson unit hopes to roll out the conditioner, which won't include any medicinal ingredients, in October or November and market it as a companion to the medicated shampoo, which went from prescription-only to over-the-counter in April 1999.

The uncertainty in the timetable is because the marketer plans to launch travel-size packets of the shampoo at the same time, but must await approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to do so. Clearance is expected in the early fall and McNeil plans to sell 10 travel packets per package.

NOT JUST MEDICINE

Since launching an OTC version of Nizoral last year, McNeil has taken great pains to plug more than the product's strength derived from its main ingredient, cacophonus ketoconazole. Instead, its marketing is based on a "no tradeoff" theme, that consumers can effectively fight dandruff without sacrificing cosmetic interests.

Ads, from Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, focus on Nizoral's role in easing social and romantic discomfort that can result from shoulders covered with white flakes. The ads also further McNeil's efforts to target what the marketer calls "hair-involved" consumers, who may include salon-going females willing to pay slightly more for Nizoral. The product costs about three times as much as market-dominator Head & Shoulders from Procter & Gamble Co.

The most recent Nizoral spot features a man and woman doing the tango in a salon.

BEAUTY THEME

The beauty-inspired theme paved the way for the conditioner launch, which may have been tougher to position were the Nizoral name more associated with vigor than vanity.

"If we had done that, we would not be doing a conditioner," said Peter Valenti, franchise director- specialty products at McNeil. "[Our approach] allowed us to go into something like this credibly."

Nizoral topped more than $24 million in media spending last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting, and Mr. Valenti said a similar level of support is planned for this year. He said the marketer is still formulating marketing plans for the conditioner and travel packets.

National magazine ads from Lowe Lintas are likely for the conditioner along with Internet and direct-marketing initiatives and trade support. TV is unlikely, since the conditioner will be targeted largely at Nizoral shampoo users.

NO HEAD & SHOULDERS THREAT

Nizoral generated $23.5 million in sales in the 52 weeks ended May 21, according to Information Resources Inc. Head & Shoulders shampoo had sales of $88.6 million over the same period, while its 2 in 1 line, which includes a conditioner, generated $45.2 million.

"We're not a threat to Head & Shoulders," Mr. Valenti said, adding that the P&G brand has a much broader target of people looking to fight dandruff at a more affordable price.

P&G also takes a beauty-oriented approach in its advertising. TV and print launched early this year feature a couple chatting during an intimate moment. Both Mr. Valenti and a P&G spokeswoman claim the other marketer has altered its approach in response to their own company's ads.

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