Patanol ads try to break from anti-allergy pack

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Nestle-owned Alcon Laboratories is making an effort not to get lost among this year's flood of allergy season advertising.

In an estimated $20 million campaign breaking today for its prescription anti-allergy eye drop Patanol, the marketer uses b&w creative and paints sufferers as warriors in a bid to stand out.

"The whole creative approach was to make sure we find different ways to break through the clutter," said Ashish Pal, a group product director at Alcon.

The campaign is the first work on Patanol from FCB Worldwide, New York, after Alcon shifted the account from Omnicom's HMC, New York, last year.

DTC CAMPAIGNS

After the product came on the market in 1997 with heavy doctor-targeted promotions, HMC did Patanol's annual direct-to-consumer campaign in 1998 and 1999.

Last year, the TV spot featured a biker, jogger and golfer and used the catchy tune "I Can See Clearly Now" as background music.

FCB sought to fuse its creative with a more empathetic tone. Its research showed eye allergy sufferers viewed their condition as a near fait accompli that must be painfully endured each spring.

"They described it as war, as a constant battle, as something they were always having to fight," said Phil Guthrie, senior creative director at FCB.

The new ads attempt to make sufferers aware that help is available, while acknowledging the sufferers' struggles.

"Here's to the veterans of the allergy wars whose itchy, watery eyes say it all . . . relief is in sight," says the TV spot. "There's Patanol."

Besides distinguishing the ads, the use of b&w gives the creative a more realistic, less overtly commercial approach, Mr. Guthrie said.

Alcon isn't the only marketer to employ b&w in this spring training before allergy season when marketers begin advertising to build early awareness. Pfizer's new Zyrtec campaign from Deutsch, New York, uses the technique in ads that attempt to show the product can treat a variety of allergies.

SIMILAR MOTIFS

Of course, if too many allergy ads use b&w, then the technique will fail in its attempt to differentiate. In previous years, allergy ads have been hurt by similar motifs and themes, according to Julie Kline, an associate product manager at consultancy Scott-Levin, which measures the effectiveness of DTC ads.

"They definitely tend to have a similar look to them," she said. "And we see some misidentification of certain products."

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