ABSORBINE RUNS IN FAMILY FOR YOUNG'S VP-MARKETING: GEN XER DEVINE WANTS LONGTIME BRAND TO APPEAL TO YOUNGER DEMOGRAPHIC

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As w.f. young inc. readies for the 21st century, the company's marketing efforts will be led by someone directly linked to its 19th century beginnings.

Young's VP-marketing, Jaime Devine, is the great-great-granddaughter of founders Wilbur F. and Mary Ida Young, who started selling the forerunner to the company's flagship product, Absorbine Jr., as a horse liniment in 1892. She was boosted last month from director of marketing.

Well-known through its jingles used in TV advertising in the 1960s through the early 1980s, Absorbine Jr. is a household name among many consumers age 50 and older. Generation Xer Ms. Devine, 29, wants to keep them interested in the product, while reaching out to a slightly younger demographic: active baby boomers in their 40s.

With that target in mind, this summer she shepherded the introduction of Absorbine Jr. Roll-On Relief, a sleeker version of Absorbine Jr. with a roll-on applicator. The parent brand, marketed as both a muscle rub and athletes' foot treatment, is known for its sponge-top applicator launched in the 1950s.

"That's how [people] recognize the product," said Ms. Devine. "It's the green stuff with the sponge on top."

IT BEGAN WITH HORSES

Absorbine Jr. has been sold over-the-counter since 1904 after the company founders realized people were using their Absorbine Veterinary Liniment on themselves. The original product, still sold today, is the signature product in W.F. Young's thriving animal-care business.

Absorbine Jr. vies in two highly competitive categories. The product ranks No. 8 in the external analgesic category with $6.3 million in sales for the 52 weeks ended July 18, according to Information Resources Inc. The top-seller is Pfizer's Ben-Gay.

Company archives, which Ms. Devine is helping organize, include Absorbine Jr. ads dating back to 1917. As late as the '80s, the company ran an ad during the Super Bowl. These days, however, Ms. Devine has to work with a limited ad budget, some $254,000 last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting -- compared to Ben-Gay's $12.7 million -- which she seeks to maximize.

Prime-time TV ads, for example, have given way to national radio, where ads during talk shows and baseball games help reach its 50-plus target. Van Winkle & Associates, Atlanta, is Young's agency.

Besides advertising during games, the company gives products to team trainers and has an ongoing relationship with the San Diego Padres first baseman Wally Joyner, nicknamed Wally "Absorbine" Joyner.

Excluding her uncle, President-CEO Tyler Young, and his wife, Jean Young, clerk and treasurer, Ms. Devine is the only member of the founding family to work full-time for the 26-member, private company. She joined it 71/2 years ago as a junior brand manager and is pursuing an MBA from the University of Massachusetts.

Preservation of the company and family legacy has been a hallmark of Ms. Devine's tenure. Besides organizing the archives, she's helped launch an oral history project where retired company employees are interviewed and plans a public relations campaign trumpeting the company's roots.

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