WARNER-LAMBERT TO ROLL LISTERINE LINE EXTENSION: NEW TARTAR CONTROL MOUTHWASH SUPPORTED BY $27 MIL AD BUDGET

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Warner-Lambert Co., opening up what could become the new battlefield in mouthwash, is introducing Tartar Control Listerine in February, backed by a $27 million ad budget.

The marketer may not have the new dental-care segment to itself for long. An executive close to Procter & Gamble Co. said that company is readying a gingivitis-fighting version of Scope, but is waiting for Food & Drug Administration clearance to make health claims.

P&G said it doesn't comment on future product initiatives.

$27 MIL AD BLITZ

Tartar Control Listerine will benefit from $114 million in marketing being put behind the total Listerine franchise in 1999, according to sales materials. Media ads comprise $54 million of the total, with the new product's dedicated spending of $27 million going into a four-month ad blitz. Another $7 million will be spent on professional communications.

In addition to TV ads, a heavy couponing and sampling program is planned for Tartar Control Listerine, according to the trade materials. A free-standing insert hits newspapers Feb. 21 with a $1-off coupon. A multibrand FSI themed "Operation Smile" and featuring Rosie O'Donnell runs April 11; additional FSIs will come in June and October.

Nine million samples of the product will be sent direct to homes in May.

BORROWING TOOTHPASTE TACTIC

Warner-Lambert declined comment on the product, whose active ingredient is zinc chloride. But it's clear from sales materials that the marketer believes the tartar control properties -- which invigorated the toothpaste market -- will do the same for the mouthwash category.

Company materials said the mouthwash category has declined 8% since 1990, and notes that tartar-control toothpastes now hold 59% of the toothpaste category.

"Providing a unique multiproduct benefit will give `toothpaste only' users a reason to incorporate mouthwash into their everyday oral care ritual," read the materials. "Every 5% gain in national household usage could result in $57 million in incremental category sales.

"Category usage can be increased by providing a new benefit that will give consumers a reason to use Listerine twice a day, everyday, as part of their daily oral care regimen (turning a light/medium user into a heavy user)."

Warner-Lambert separates mouthwashes into two segments, therapeutic and cosmetic. Listerine, long touted for its germ-killing prowess, falls into the therapeutic segment.

41% SHARE OF MARKET

Listerine holds a 41% share of the $649.7 million mouthwash category in food, drug and mass merchandisers, according to Information Resources Inc. Sales were $270 million, up 5.3%, for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 23.

The nearest competitor is private label products, with $129.8 million in sales, up 2.7% for a 20% category share.

Scope, which drove Ms. O'Donnell into the arms of archrival Warner-Lambert after naming her one of the least kissable celebrities, had flat sales of $109.4 million for a 16.8% share. Dep Corp.'s Plax is No. 5 with $41 million in sales, down 7.5%.

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