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Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Mead Johnson Nutritional Group is running consumer ads for a new toddler formula but says its opposition to promoting infant formulas stands.

The $8.5 million campaign that began last month introduces Next Step, positioned as better than cow's milk.

Next Step is different, said Eric Spahr, Mead Johnson product manager-pediatric marketing, because "the switch to cow's milk has become more and more of a consumer decision. If we are going to have an alternative to cow's milk, we are going to have to carry the message of its availability to mom."

Ad support from J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago, consists of both print and TV. Print is running in August issues of parenting and childcare magazines with the tagline, "After the bottle. Before the milk." The ad attacks milk by saying, "Next Step, a pediatrician approved formulation, is better than milk for your toddler's first year of life."

The 30-second TV spot will run through yearend in daytime and late night programming.

Mead Johnson, Abbott Laboratories' Ross Products Division and American Home Products Corp.'s Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories don't advertise infant formula to consumers (AA April 18). Most infant formula companies market to healthcare professionals and through hospitals.

In the past, the Federal Trade Commission has ordered that the companies not exchange media ad information and not collaborate to refrain from consumer advertising.

However, Mead Johnson isn't averse to consumer advertising. The company used consumer advertising to market its Gerber brand infant formula because it lacks a strong healthcare sales force for the product. But the marketer still relies on the healthcare sales force for the Enfamil and Prosobee brands.

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