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NICOTROL NICODERM CQ FIRES UP $35 MIL SMITHKLINE'S OTC PATCH ENTRY GOING UP AGAINST MCNEIL'S NICOTROL

By Published on .

As SmithKline Beecham's NicoDerm CQ nicotine patch hits the over-the-counter market, as much as $35 million more is being added to the $70 million already being spent on advertising behind competing products for people who want to quit smoking.

Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, New York, handles both NicoDerm CQ and SmithKline's $40 million Nicorette campaign. TV spots that began running Aug. 12 take on McNeil Consumer Products Co.'s Nicotrol directly, and emphasize NicoDerm CQ's unique qualities, including a "most prescribed" status.

FOR LIGHT SMOKERS, TOO

The brand, which comes in three strengths, is the only one light smokers can also use.

NicoDerm CQ has a 10-week program, compared to six weeks for Nicotrol; both sell for around $28 a week.

A joint venture of Hoechst Marion Roussel and SmithKline, NicoDerm CQ was approved Aug. 2 by the Food & Drug Administration and is the marketer's second entry into the category after Nic-orette gum.

McNeil's Nicotrol was the first patch on the OTC market in early July; Ciba-Geigy Corp.'s Habitrol patch is still awaiting FDA clearance.

TIMING IS CRITICAL

The timing of FDA approval is vital and can make or break competing brands.

"It's a very short time difference, just a few weeks" between the OTC launches of Nicotrol and NicoDerm CQ, said Joe Martyn, NicoDerm's senior brand equity manager.

Had approval been delayed, Nicotrol could have built a big lead in the marketplace.

Nicotrol's estimated $30 million campaign, handled by DDB Needham Worldwide, New York, broke last month and tracks smokers in Ann Arbor, Mich., over the six-week program in its testimonial TV spots.

McNeil also makes Nicotrol NS nasal spray treatment, approved in March for prescription sale and considered a promising potential OTC product by industry observers.

Though the second patch to get FDA approval, NicoDerm CQ may have an edge as the leading prescription brand with nearly 40% of the flat $268 million prescription smoking-cessation market, expected to double or triple as an OTC category.

The rival brands will have to work hard to differentiate themselves.

"The names are so similar," said Susan Coleman, president of NCI Consulting. "I would expect the heritage to be a key element in marketing."

NEW DISPLAYS READIED

Because the new therapies can be difficult for consumers to find in retail stores, Mr. Martyn said marketers are creating display units to include competing brands.

"Right now, the placement varies but it will become a new section in the store," Mr. Martyn said.

Nicotine patches, a booming $600 million business when they became available by prescription in 1991, have seen sales fall off dramatically in recent years.

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