See the Spots: Droga5 Turns Sundown Naturals 'Shmorange'

NBTY Emboldened to Make Vitamins Funny After Success of Osteo Ads

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Humor was never a feature of vitamin ads until recently. But armed with new evidence it works in the category, NBTY and Droga5 are launching a campy campaign to coin a new word for the long-overlooked Sundown Naturals brand – Shmorange.

Besides playing on its redesigned orange bottles, Shmorange stands for its new positioning as the only mass-market vitamin line entirely free of gluten, dairy and artificial flavors. "Shmorange" is promoted by a narrator superimposed into a field of sunflowers as he tries to induce a baby to make it her first word or is rendered speechless by an emoji-spewing millennial.

The campaign, which breaks broadly April 25, is the first major advertising outside promotional vehicles for Sundown, a distant also-ran to the company's flagship Nature's Bounty and many others in a crowded business. NBTY is looking to change that with ads that break from stereotypical shots of golden agers riding bikes or walking along beaches.

So far, that approach appears to be working, based on results for another new Droga5 campaign for Osteo Bi-Flex showing parents, their joints sufficiently freed by supplementation, embarrassing their millennial children by dancing at a wedding or taking yoga class. The campaign broke in January, and brand sales are up 3% for the four weeks ended March 12, according to Nielsen data from Tabs Analytics. That's a considerable improvement on the brand's 11% decline for the full year.

"We've seen tremendous market results, and we're just two and a half months in," said Derek Bowen, senior VP-general manager at NBTY. "We went to Droga and said we want to do with Sundown Naturals what we're doing with Osteo Bi-Flex – really challenging category conventions. We have to make it really relatable to a different target."

Sundown's target is primarily people 45 and up, a bit lower than the category's traditional 55 and up, but reaches down to include even millennials, Mr. Bowen said. The rapid growth of gummy vitamins, a substantial part of Sundown sales, and of beauty propositions such as a Nature's Bounty line to improve appearance of hair, skin and nails, has been expanding category reach younger in recent years, he said.

Mr. Bowen is part of a new management team that arrived at NBTY a year ago, including Andre Branch as chief marketing officer. When they arrived, it wasn't clear to consumers what the difference was between Nature's Bounty and Sundown Naturals, they said. But Sundown's sales have been slipping -- down 9% to $177 million in the past year, per the Tabs/Nielsen data, vs. a 4% increase for the $6 billion category and 10% increase for Nature's Bounty, driven largely by the aforementioned beauty product.

"We wanted to make sure each brand has a unique purpose in people's lives," Mr. Branch said, so NBTY reformulated Sundown products to allow the brand could claim to be universally free of gluten, dairy and artificial flavors, then turned to Droga5 to point that out to consumers with Shmorange.

"When we shared plans with retail partners, it's something they hadn't seen in the space," Mr. Branch said. "And I think you're starting to see the benefits and payoffs." One big payoff, which has turned Sundown Naturals into a true national brand and helped make the new campaign financially feasible – Walmart has just put it in stores nationally.

Previously Sundown was marketed almost entirely through newspaper coupons and promotions with retailers. The new campaign, besides adding TV, digital and social media to the mix, includes the brand's first PR support via Ketchum and a national truck tour to health expos and farmer's markets handled by Activent Marketing. Havas handles media. And BrandtBrand redesigned packaging.