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Established antacid marketers, losing sales to highly successful new acid blockers, are fighting back by spending a combined $55 million-plus on new advertising.

Ciba Self Medication last week broke a $25 million campaign for "One Minute Maalox" via Grey Advertising, New York. Those ads directly take on acid blockers and come on the heels of a $16 million campaign from BBDO Worldwide for Bayer Corp.'s Alka-Seltzer and Warner-Lambert Co.'s $14 million push behind Rolaids from J. Walter Thompson USA.

Those will be followed by a new campaign for Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pepto-Bismol, expected to launch by the end of this month via Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, and Johnson & Johnson/Merck's spots for a children's version of Mylanta, expected to receive an estimated $7 million campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi Healthcare Connection, New York (AA, May 27).


A unifying theme among the new antacid ads will be quick pain relief, a method of setting them apart from the many acid blockers, also known as H2s.

"It's self-preservation from the OTCs against the H2s," said Bruce Hall, Maalox brand manager.

J&J/Merck's acid blocker, Pepcid AC, is king of the $1.45 billion category, with sales of $244 million and a 16.8% share, followed by SmithKline Beecham's Tums, down 2.7% to $159.2 million and an 11% share for the year ended May 26, according to Information Resources Inc. Mylanta plummeted 17.6% to $151.9 million and a 10.5% share, while SmithKline Beecham's acid blocker Tagamet snagged an 8.5% share and $122.8 million.

McNeil Pharmaceuticals' Imodium was an uncommon gainer among the antacids, increasing sales 6.3% to $109.4 million and a 7.6% share. Pepto, meanwhile, dropped 8.5% to $97.9 million and a 6.8% share and Maalox fell 14.4% to $84.9 million for a 5.9% share. Alka-Seltzer slipped 6.6% to $66.9 million and a 4.6% share; Rolaids tumbled 10% to $66.2 million and 4.6% of the category.

Warner Wellcome's Zantac 75, introduced a few months ago, reportedly already registered a 15% share of category sales in May alone, putting it in second place. The brand is backed by a $125 million campaign from JWT.

More acid blocker competition is coming. American Home Products Corp.'s Axid AR began hitting shelves last week. A campaign from Young & Rubicam will break this month, upping the spending ante by tens of millions of dollars.


In its new spot, Maalox takes on Pepcid AC in a direct comparison to stress its 1-minute action. Citing a 1993 study, Mr. Hall said 72% of consumers said speed of action is extremely important.

"It really brings to life the advantage over H2s," he said.


Despite the defensive efforts of established antacids, acid blockers have a combined marketing firepower of more than $300 million and a prescription heritage that so far has resulted in heavy wins in the category.

"H2 blockers have sapped the efficacy from" antacids, said Chet Kane, managing partner of consultancy Kane, Bortree & Associates. "And their new efforts are not going to be a substantive strategy. Most people understand they're just a short-term solution.'

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