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P&G READIES NEW ADS, PRODUCT TO BOLSTER CREST;AD SPENDING COULD DOUBLE TO FIGHT SLIPPAGE IN SALES, SHARE

By Published on .

Procter & Gamble Co. is expected to unveil by mid-October a new toothpaste to combat Colgate-Palmolive Co.'s Total brand, which could also be hitting the U.S. market soon.

The P&G product is part of a multiprong effort to reverse sales and market share declines in the toothpaste and toothbrush categories, together worth more than $2 billion.

The longtime toothpaste category leader has been humbled by competition, ranging from Colgate to Unilever's Mentadent, Warner-Lambert Co.'s fledgling Listerine and SmithKline Beecham's Aquafresh.

Neither Colgate nor P&G would comment on new products.

CREST'S NEW WEAPON

Industry executives and analysts believe P&G's new weapon is either triclosan-based Crest Ultra, already marketed in Canada; a peroxide and baking soda toothpaste; or one with a new combination of ingredients.

Colgate's Total, which also features triclosan, is believed close to final Food & Drug Administration approval, which would be followed by a U.S. introduction.

If the new P&G product is peroxide/baking soda based, it would be a reversal of position for the marketer, which argued last fall against this type of product before the FDA.

NEW CAMPAIGN

Even before P&G reveals the nature of its expected new toothpaste, the company is increasing support behind the Crest brand with a new, all-TV campaign for Crest Tartar Control from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York.

The 45-second spot will air on prime-time and daytime network TV; it features a dental receptionist talking about the benefits of the brand. There's also a demonstration of the product showing how it works, with the tagline, "The dentist's choice is Crest protection."

P&G has told the financial community there will be a dramatic increase in spending behind Crest. While the marketer wouldn't be specific, analysts anticipate budgets could as much as double.

In 1995, P&G spent more than $40 million on Crest toothpaste with nearly $17 million of that for Tartar Control, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The company also is boosting consumer promotion for the brand.

In September, P&G begins a monthlong, two-for-one promotion of Tartar Control designed to thwart a string of newer, therapeutic gumcare brands, the latest of which is SmithKline Beecham Consumer HealthCare's Aquafresh Gum Care with $10 million in spending via Grey Advertising (AA, July 8).

P&G's own stannous fluoride-based Crest Gum Care, which received $15 million in support in 1995, is widely viewed as a failure because of a poor taste and disappointing share.

Even P&G, where Crest Gum Care has been internally labeled a "dog," is hard-pressed to defend the entry.

Several years ago, P&G made the decision to go with that entry instead of a baking soda and peroxide product.

"They were foiled by research and development, which .*.*. told them a market would never develop," said Andrew Shore, PaineWebber analyst. "Instead, they missed big growth opportunities."

For the 52 weeks ended June 30, Crest's share of the $1.5 billion toothpaste market was 28.4%, down from 34.8% in 1992. Colgate gained marginally during the 52-week period for an 18.8% share.

In the $519.6 million toothbrush category, Crest dropped from a 14.2% share to an 11.3% last year. Colgate also lost some share in toothbrushes for the year ended June 30, to 21.6% from 23.3%

In toothbrushes, P&G is simplifying its brand name-from Crest Complete to just Crest-and shifting professional advertising for the brushes to Medicus Group from Lally, McFarland & Pantello.

Medicus is a sister agency of DMB&B under MacManus Group.

Gillette Co. is now introducing a new Oral-B Advantage brush via BBDO Worldwide, Los Angeles.

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