Merck & Co. has entered into a deal with Parade Publications to run ads in Sunday magazine Parade in markets with significant populations of people age 50 and older.
The program began last month with an unbranded ad for osteoporosis drug Fosamax, aimed at women 50-plus. It ran in approximately 50 of Parade's 334 markets with a circulation of approximately 15 million; Parade has a total circulation of 37 million.
"It's taking a mass publication and making it more targeted," said Ellen Oppenheim, senior VP-media director at FCB Worldwide, New York, who hatched the idea.
FCB handles media buying for all Merck consumer advertising and creative for Fosamax.
ENCOURAGING BONE DENSITY TESTS
The campaign encourages women in the age group to ask their doctor about a bone density test. Merck is hoping that will lead to an increase in Fosamax prescriptions.
Parade has produced geographic editions before-Kraft Foods likes to run Miracle Whip ads only in the Midwest, for example-but never one based on population age.
FCB worked with Parade using U.S. Census Bureau figures to determine markets with large 50-plus populations.
Magazines such as TV Guide and Newsweek can offer advertisers targeted 50-plus editions because they have detailed subscriber information. But Parade, which is distributed in every edition of a particular newspaper in a market, can only segment editions based on geography, not demographics.
Even though it took work to isolate the target reader in Parade, one reason Merck chose that vehicle is its immediacy-it is read within 48 hours.
Merck next year could use the program to advertise high-cholesterol drug Zocor or arthritis drug Vioxx, both of which have older-skewing target audiences.
"It gives us a chance to further refine the targeting," said Len Tacconi, Merck's executive director-consumer marketing.
The program also allowed Merck to reduce its cost below the $730,000 normally paid for a page in Parade.
"There are very few Claritins that are going to spend hundreds of millions," said Tom Drake, director of customer marketing information services for consultancy Rx Remedy. "So brands that want to go to the consumers are going to have to find ways to more economically reach the audiences they need to reach."
Merck spent nearly $30 million backing Fosamax in 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting, but slashed spending last year. In May, it launched the