ROLAIDS SEEKS BOOST WITH $20 MIL DRIVE: WARNER-LAMBERT BRAND GOES BACK TO SPORTS, SPELLING

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Warner-Lambert Co. is boosting media spending to an estimated $20 million for Rolaids, as it looks to the brand's past for its first new campaign since 1996.

The new advertising, from J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, returns to spelling out the tagline, "R-o-l-a-i-d-s spells relief," and its history of sports themes. Spots began airing on network TV last week; no print is planned.

Though in the past celebrity endorsers for Rolaids have included the likes of Tommy Lasorda, then manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the focus now is a tongue-in-cheek look at professional sports fans.

A CLASSIC BRAND

"Rolaids is such a classic brand, but got lost in the last couple of years with the H2 blockers, which really changed the game," said Christina Villante, senior partner-senior account director at JWT. "Everyone in the category was re-evaluating their advertising, and that cost them equities.

"But if you ask consumers about Rolaids, they remember the spelling and sports, so it's a natural to go back to that."

While he praised the "legacy marketing" approach, Silvermine Consulting President Paul Kelly wondered about the switch. "I'm surprised they're abandoning the quick relief message already, since from a marketing standpoint that's how everyone is dividing out," Mr. Kelly said.

SETTLED CATEGORY

The antacids largely have stopped their dramatic tumble since the acid-blockers began over-the-counter sales in 1995, and the $1.57 billion category has settled. Still, No. 10-ranked Rolaids fell 5.5% on sales of $57.2 million for the 52 weeks ended May 24, according to Information Resources Inc.

That fall was exceeded by No. 4 Mylanta, from Johnson & Johnson/Merck, which slipped 7.3% to $134.7 million. But for J&J/Merck, that was balanced by its acid- blocker, Pepcid AC, No. 1 with $225 million in sales.

Warner-Lambert's acid-blocker, Zantac 75, enjoyed 6.3% growth, to $168.3 million; while SmithKline Beecham's Tagamet HB fell 2.8% to $87.8 million. American Home Products Co.'s Axid AR slumped 23.1% to $33.7 million.

Ad spending for the category dropped 16.4%, to $300.6 million, last year.

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