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McNeil Plans Chewable Tylenol

Will Target Young, Single Adults With $30 Million Ad Campaign for Tablet

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Too much trouble to get a glass of water to down that Tylenol?
After its research found that 30% of households don't take medicine for headaches because it's too inconvenient, McNeil devised a Tylenol format that could be chewed rather than taken with water.
After its research found that 30% of households don't take medicine for headaches because it's too inconvenient, McNeil devised a Tylenol format that could be chewed rather than taken with water.

No water needed
McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals wants to relieve you of that burdensome chore with no-water-necessary chewable extra-strength tablets under the Tylenol Go banner next month. Research from the Johnson & Johnson unit found that 30% of households don't medicate for headaches because it's too inconvenient to do so.

To reach those sufferers, and drive its nearly 7% growth last year, McNeil will back Tylenol Go with a sizable $30 million ad campaign beginning in October that will tout it as "Fast headache relief wherever whenever."

Demographic target: Commuters
Instead of the typical demographic for Extra Strength Tylenol -- women 35 to 64, mature couples and singles -- Tylenol Go will reach out to a younger, 30- to 54-year-old demographic in households with children, people busy and on-the-go commuting to work and home. It's aiming for shelving at front counters among the candy and magazine racks, where other impulse items are sold.

Advertising from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, New York, will tout the spearmint-ice-flavored chewables (in six-, 24- and 36-count packages) via TV ads that begin Oct. 1, as well as through national radio, print, outdoor, direct mail and online efforts. McNeil also will drop three newspaper inserts and conduct grassroots sampling efforts.

The multipronged approach is part of a marketing turnaround Tylenol began in 2003 that was marked by a change in agencies from longtime partner Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, to Deutsch and by the adoption of nontraditional tactics such as a stint on CBS's "Survivor: All Stars" and a "living billboard" in Times Square.

Tylenol sales up
Information Resources data for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 22 show the changes have proven beneficial, as Tylenol grew 6.5% to $275 million in food, drug and mass outlets excluding Wal-Mart. That said, Advil is still the leader in the analgesic segment, with sales up 2.5% to $281 million. That small gap could be more than bridged with the Tylenol Go launch.

According to an executive close to McNeil, Tylenol Go -- despite being a niche product -- is expected to drive incremental sales volume of roughly $20 million, primarily with displays on front counters that encourage impulse purchases for purses and pants pockets.

Tylenol Go "is an obvious, simple idea that I'm surprised didn't happen long ago, since the technology for chewable has been around a long time in kids' medicine," said Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor Associates, New York. Tylenol's growth challenge, he said, is to "take the brand promise and put it in arm's reach of anyone who wants it" without introducing too many forms and making the analgesic aisle a "confusing shopping nightmare." They've done a nice job with that balancing act, he said.

Positive retailer response
Retailers agree. One East Coast retail executive said he would take on Tylenol Go. "Anything Tylenol has sells," he said.

McNeil has indeed straddled the line between innovation and caution to ensure that's largely been true over the years. TNS Media Intelligence data showed McNeil spent $138 million in media on Tylenol last year, with the largest outlay -- $60 million -- going toward Tylenol Rapid Release Gels, introduced in 2004.
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