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Johnson & Johnson's Ortho Pharmaceuticals unit is betting close to $50 million in marketing money that it can out-sell the wrinkle warriors of department stores with its prescription skin cream Renova.

Last week, the company said a print campaign consisting of four-page inserts and spreads-themed "Companies were forever selling me hope-in-a-bottle. What a relief to find a tube of truth"-had been approved by the Food & Drug Administration.


Still pending FDA approval is a 30-second TV spot set to break this month along with the print. Those close to the approval process on Renova believe the FDA will sanction the ad shortly.

Both the print and TV ads use a 40-something model, but the TV spot is said to be less cheeky and more emotional. The talking head in the spot speaks of wrinkles and aging and what they mean, what they say to people and how she feels about them. There is no theme line and the product's name isn't disclosed. Instead, at the close of the spot viewers are invited to talk to their doctors and are given an 800-number to call for more information.


A J&J spokesman called estimates of a $50 million marketing budget too high, but would only say that Renova's spending would be competitive with upscale skincare launches in department stores. Those can vary widely, with companies spending anywhere from $5 million to $40 million.

Industry executives familiar with the product's launch, however, said print spending alone will be $20 million, TV will be $11 million and the remainder will be spent in direct marketing targeted to consumers of rival products. DDB Needham Worldwide, New York, handles advertising; Omnicom direct marketing agency Rapp Collins handles promotion.

Renova also will be promoted in a line of Renova-compatible skincare products from J&J beauty subsidiary Neutrogena.

A $50 million budget would more than double the planned spending since Renova's introduction was announced earlier this year (AA, Jan. 8).

That may be because J&J realizes it will have to tread carefully in how it generates publicity for the brand in order not to run afoul of the FDA, or because the product may have already maxed out on free publicity.


If the brand is as successful as J&J hopes, it will almost certainly impact alpha hydroxy acid skin treatments, the fastest growing category segment, up an estimated 35% in 1995 to about $500 million in sales in the $3 billion U.S. skincare market.

Alpha hydroxy acid products cannot claim to do anything but affect the skin's surface. Renova can say it works on all layers of the skin, reducing wrinkles, brown spots and the natural aging process when used in conjunction with a comprehensive skincare and sun avoidance program.

Department store marketers like Elizabeth Arden Co. are already working on alternatives that may not be able to make the same claims as a drug but also do not sensitize skin to sun the way Renova can. That sensitivity is a well-known side effect of Retin-A, Renova's forebear.

Retin-A now boasts about $150 million in sales, according to market research consultancy Scott Levin Associates.

Renova's first-year sales are expected to hit $100 million if enough consumers spend $60 for a tube that lasts four to six months.

J&J has indicated no plans for a Renova over-the-counter launch, but competitors expect one by 2000, producing $200 million in incremental sales.

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