P&G CONCENTRATING ON ULTRA 2 DETERGENT LINES; LAUNDRY LEADER SETS 6 TOP BRANDS FOR MARCH INTROS IN RISKY MOVE

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Procter & Gamble Co. will put its dominance of the $4 billion heavy-duty laundry detergent category on the line in March, with a national rollout of Ultra 2 versions of its six powder detergent brands.

The products are 20% more concentrated.

Industry analysts said the move is a risk in a category where Unilever's Wisk and Church & Dwight's Arm & Hammer washed out. Both companies pulled their concentrates.

The move will affect P&G's Tide, Cheer, Biz, Gain, Bold and Ivory Snow, which combined have 58% of the total category. With most of the brands, other product improvements will be incorporated along with the increased concentration, a P&G spokeswoman said.

SIX CAMPAIGNS PLANNED

Each rollout will be supported with a separate campaign breaking that month. P&G said TV will be dominant in the mix.

The brands involved were supported with $118 million in advertising during the first nine months of 1995 alone, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, handles Tide; Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, Cheer and Bold; Wells Rich Greene BDDP, New York, Gain; Tatham Euro RSCG, Chicago, Biz; and D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, Ivory Snow.

"The risk is becoming too concentrated, and even if you put in a new cleaning upgrad....there's the question of whether you can convey all that to the consumer," said Andrew Shore, an analyst with PaineWebber.

"It should be especially interesting to see how the Ultra 2 rollout fares in the Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester markets, where it won't be supported by couponing," said Burt Flickinger, a consultant with Price Waterhouse & Co., referring to P&G's zero-coupon test in those markets.

DISHWASHING LIQUID SHARE DOWN

P&G lost three share points in light-duty dishwashing liquid during the early stages of a similar rollout of more-concentrated versions of its Dawn, Ivory and Joy brands, according to Tristan Gerra, an analyst with Dean Witter Reynolds. But P&G said that in tests, Ultra 2 hiked category volume 5% and its powder detergent volume 3%.

TIDE HITS 50

The Ultra 2 initiative comes as P&G is marking the 50th anniversary of megabrand Tide, with a TV advertising and promotional campaign this month.

Plans include a 45-second spot featuring a family that has used Tide for half a century, a collector's edition box and a "Dirtiest kid in America" contest.

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