Marketing 50

Prilosec OTC

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Joe Arcuri has made a career on Prilosec OTC.

He was Procter & Gamble Co.'s brand manager on the project in 1997 as the company negotiated with Astra-Merck (now AstraZeneca) to secure rights for the over-the-counter conversion of the prescription heartburn drug. Then he helped develop P&G's rollout plan as marketing director. Finally, he launched the brand as general manager-personal healthcare.

The result has been a marketing success so huge it overwhelmed AstraZeneca's production capacity, forcing P&G to put the brand on allocation with retailers late this summer, though it expects to have production meeting all demand by yearend. Prilosec OTC easily hit the high end of P&G's $200 million to $400 million forecast for first-year sales, ranking it as the fastest launch in company history.

"We captured market leadership in five days and haven't looked back," says Mr. Arcuri, 40. In the process, Prilosec OTC has become a poster child for how P&G wants to go to market, with Mr. Arcuri's work forming some of the basis of what would become Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel's "marketing framework."

In 1997, Mr. Arcuri, convened a group that included six marketing services shops, including ad agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (later Publicis Groupe's Publicis, but with the same staff), to jointly go over the consumer research. By launch, the team had a mailing list of 60% to 70% of frequent heartburn sufferers in the U.S.

"We knew our consumer so well, we even named her Joanne," says Mr. Arcuri, who also had a cardboard cutout created of the archetypal consumer. "Our buzz word was `the consumer is in the room.' It helps create some clarity. When you're getting into some dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin issues, we'd ask: `Does this really matter to her?' "

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