80 Years of Ideas

Tums Brand, Like Acid Indigestion, Is Timeless

Antacid Thrives in Its Journey From Accidental Remedy to Trusted Household Name Remembered Fondly for Jingle

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STOMACH UPSET: Tums began running newspaper ads in 1951, including one in the Miami News showing a matronly woman with the caption 'Too Easily Tempted.' Although Tums ads had often featured overweight people suffering from fatty food, the brand and its agencies eventually decided this depiction was off-putting to consumers.
STOMACH UPSET: Tums began running newspaper ads in 1951, including one in the Miami News showing a matronly woman with the caption 'Too Easily Tempted.' Although Tums ads had often featured overweight people suffering from fatty food, the brand and its agencies eventually decided this depiction was off-putting to consumers.


NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- "Tums, Tum-Tum-Tum, Tums!"

That famous jingle, set to the dramatic opening bars of the theme from the TV show "Dragnet," just might be what people remember most about Tums, the famous antacid that was born the same year as Advertising Age.

But while G.D. Crain had a specific vision in mapping out what would become this publication, Jim Howe's creation was part happenstance, part necessity. A pharmacist in St. Louis, Mr. Howe was looking for a remedy for his wife's indigestion back in 1928 when he seemingly found the right formula. They kept the tablets in an old mason jar.

Several months later, while the couple was on a cruise, his wife experienced an upset stomach. She shared the tablets with fellow passengers suffering from the same malady, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Mr. Howe formed The Lewis Howe Co. and began to market commercially in 1930 the tablets that today are the No. 1 antacid product on the market, having claimed that spot in 1986. Tums today owns a 9.5% share of the $1.2 billion antacid category, which includes such brands as Prilosec, Pepcid and Zantac, according to Nielsen Co., and a 26.5% share of the "immediate-relief" segment, which includes Rolaids and Pepto-Bismol, among others.

"Going all the way back to the cruise-ship anecdote, the message has always been about simplicity," said David Van Brunt, director-marketing for gastro-intestinal products at GlaxoSmithKline, which now owns and markets Tums. "The core of the brand has always been about fast, trusted relief. Especially in the uncertainty of today, people like simplicity."

Innovation
The first true national ads for Tums didn't appear until 1951, but Mr. Howe certainly knew how to use various forms of media.

In 1930, he conducted a joint promotion with a St. Louis radio station to name the product, a contest that was won by a nurse who coined the phrase "Tums for the Tummy."

For about a decade, the St. Louis office of the New York agency Ruthrauff & Ryan handled the account. In the 1940s, H.W. Kastor & Sons had the Tums account and launched radio's first big-money quiz show, "Pot o' Gold," with Tums as the sponsor. The promotion offered $1,000 to anyone who was home on a Tuesday to answer a question via a random phone call from the show. The program actually provoked movie-theater owners to complain to the Justice Department that the promotion was keeping people out of movie theaters every Tuesday.

Tums ads began appearing nationwide in 1951 in newspapers across the country.

A 1954 ad in the then-Miami News showed a picture of a matronly woman with the headline "Too Easily Tempted" and copy that read: "Tempted to over-eat ... then suffered acid stomach!"

The first TV ads came in 1961 -- simple, basic animated ads. "Two spots, black-and-white, one talent and a voice-over," Mr. Van Brunt said with a chuckle.

Earworm
In 1981, the famous "Tums, Tum-Tum-Tum, Tums!" jingle was created by Arnold, McGrath, Case & Taylor. Tums had long been sold to Norcliff-Thayer, and later to SmithKline Beecham Corp., but Arnold McGrath -- later to be known as Arnold Worldwide -- had the Tums business for more than 30 years. "The music track just stuck," Mr. Van Brunt said. "Even today, when we show that jingle to consumer groups, it just brings a smile to people's faces."

Earlier this year, Tums, now working with Grey Worldwide after GlaxoSmithKline went through an agency consolidation, introduced a campaign dubbed "Food Fight." The spots show consumers literally fighting with the foods they love -- in one instance, a man is slapped around by a chicken wing.

While the messaging is old-school -- fast relief for heartburn -- the ads are a departure from the past that sometimes showed overweight people going on a slovenly eating binge with fatty foods, only to pay for it later with acid indigestion.

"Tums is 80 years old, so it's sometimes hard to break through with consumers who think they know everything about the brand," Mr. Van Brunt said. "One of the things we also realized was that showing that kind of [fatty] food in our previous spots may have been off-putting to some. Not everybody gets heartburn from fat; they can get it from healthy food as well."

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