Antacids take over airwaves to protect share of stomach

CINCINNATI —By the end of this quarter, there shouldn’t be one person in America who doesn’t have a favorite heartburn brand, or at the very least a favorite heartburn commercial.

This year is shaping up to be a banner year for marketers of antacid products. Novartis Consumer Healthcare launched its Prevacid 24HR in fall 2009, and is supporting that launch with the company’s “largest ad campaign, ever,” according to some advertising pundits. And Schering-Plough, marketer of such successful switch brands as Miralax and Claritin, is expected to launch its own over-the-counter PPI, Zegerid OTC, by June.

Meanwhile, both Procter & Gamble and GlaxoSmithKline, two advertising powerhouses with a sizeable share of stomach to protect, have each stepped up their antacid advertising.

All of this primetime attention already has sales through the busy holiday season. Since its Nov. 12 launch through Jan. 24, Prevacid 24HR has generated $25.6 million in sales—and cracked the top-10 brand list—across food, drug and mass (minus Walmart), according to Information Resources Inc. Sales of all antacids are up 7.2% in the 52 weeks ended Jan. 24, pulling in $1.2 billion. Prilosec OTC, with $288.5 million in sales, is by far the one antacid SKU with the most dollar share to lose, followed by Zantac 150 ($72.7 million) and Pepcid Complete ($53.9 million).

P&G earlier this year revealed a little of its market-share protection strategy with the launch of its “Official Sponsor of Everything You Do Without Heartburn” program. Prilosec OTC fans had until Feb. 22 to apply online in an effort to “solicit” that Prilosec OTC sponsorship in 1-of-15 categories. If selected on March 19, P&G will provide an average of $1,000 in resources to help take those consumer passions to the next level.

And GlaxoSmithKline last month launched its “Food Fight” campaign highlighting the speed of action of its Tums brand and illustrating that love/hate relationship heartburn sufferers have with the food they crave—a chicken wing slaps a tailgating sports fanatic in one commercial and a woman enjoying an Italian finedining experience is face-whipped by her pasta in another.

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