PFIZER SEEKS TO REVITALIZE SAGGING PLAX WITH NEW ADS: EMPHASIZES THAT ORAL RINSE HELPS REMOVE PLAQUE WHEN BRUSHING

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Pfizer will try to stimulate a decaying mouthwash market with a new ad campaign for its Plax pre-brushing rinse.

The effort, from Cline Davis & Mann, New York, breaks July 4 with an ad in Sunday newspapers. A 15-second TV spot will follow July 5.

Pfizer hasn't finalized a budget for the campaign, said Catherine Jelilian, the agency's VP-management supervisor on the Plax account.

The effort stresses Plax's plaque-removing qualities as an improvement over brushing alone.

"What's the secret of this toothbrush?" asks the TV spot's voice-over. The spot then explains that rinsing with Plax before brushing loosens plaque for more effective brushing.

The commercial is meant to separate the brand from breath-freshening mouthwashes, which make up the bulk of the segment, said Michael Sanzen, copywriter at the agency.

Plax wants to boost its share in a sagging market dominated by Warner-Lambert Co.'s Listerine, which commands a 41.9% share of the $653 million business. Procter & Gamble Co.'s Scope is a distant second with 16.6%, while Plax holds just 6.2%.

CATEGORY SALES SLOW

Sales in the category have dropped 2.2% over the past three years, according to Information Resources Inc. By comparison, the toothpaste segment grew to $1.6 billion from $1.45 million during the same period, spurred by whitening toothpastes and the introduction of Colgate-Palmolive's Total antibacterial brand.

Yet lack of marketing, not improved toothpastes, is to blame for dips in the mouthwash market, said William Steele, an analyst at Nationsbanc Montgomery Securities.

"I don't think Plax's market share decline comes from people going away from mouthwash, but from [lack of] marketing support," he said.

The issues are whether Plax is a core brand for Pfizer and whether the pharmaceutical giant wants to support a mouthwash brand, he said.

Pfizer's ad spending on Plax has dropped from nearly $12 million in 1995 to just $4.3 million in 1998, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

"If you're not innovating and you're not marketing, odds are you're losing market share," said Mr. Steele. "Consumers are looking for a reason to buy, and

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