packaged goods

Novartis Reaches Out With Headache Message


Novartis is launching a new campaign for its Excedrin OTC migraine and headache reliever that uses comedian and actor Zach Woods (NBC's “The Office”) in a series of online videos that parody daily problems that cause headaches. 

The first video launched today and the others will follow in the coming weeks. The effort, which has a social media platform as the videos will be on Excedrin's Facebook page, launches with Woods getting the restaurant check for several of his friends.

 In a scene with which we are all familiar, his friends start trying to divvy up the check by figuring out how much each one pays. One guy says he'll pay part of his bill with a credit card and part with cash, and it goes downhill from there, as people start offering non-currency to the pile: a bag of rice, Japanese yen, a recently purchased Turkish coffee decanter. A woman who said she hadn't brought any money takes money out anyway as a token gesture.



The effort actually hearkens back to classic advertising for the over-40-year-old brand. Old ads used to delve into re-enactments of different headache-inducing situations, denoted by number, as in "Headache No. 29." 

The story in the over $2.5 billion OTC painkiller market is private-label, which gained big-time after Tylenol and Motrin recalls in 2010 that hurt Johnson & Johnson, per Chicago-based market firm Mintel.

The firm, citing Experian Simmons data, says the percentage of respondents who agree that OTC store brands work just like advertised brands grew from 62% in 2007 to 65% in 2009. Mintel’s current survey finds that 69% of respondents who take OTC pain medication say that store brands are just as effective as name brands.

Competing brands have not benefited the way private-label has, notes the firm, which says drug stores are the most important channel for OTC analgesics.

Mintel says Excedrin has focused on cornering the headache-pain market in recent years, while Tylenol and Advil have focused on an older demographic. At least one recent ad for Excedrin has targeted teenage and young adult females, who are more common sufferers of migraine headaches.

In addition to private-label, negative attitudes challenge brand names. Mintel finds that a majority of respondents try to avoid using OTC analgesics by trying other types of remedies first.

A Mintel study last year found that about 55% of respondents who use OTC pain medication report trying to relax or use a home remedy for pain before turning to OTC products. "This attitude is stronger among under-35s, who have fewer health problems in general and try to avoid medication until necessary," said the report. Excedrin's new campaign features under-35 actors.

The good news for Excedrin is that the acetaminophen/aspirin combination is particularly popular among 25 to 34 year olds as a headache reliever. "This product may be perceived as more powerful but, as a result, is taken less frequently on average," says Mintel. While acetaminophen remains roughly tied with ibuprofen as the most popular OTC pain medication, Excedrin's aspirin/acetaminophen combo trails acetaminophen alone, ibuprofen alone, aspirin, and naproxen (Aleve) in popularity among consumers over 18, per the firm.

As nearly half (44%) of respondents said they are "overwhelmed by the number of choices available, differentiation [is] needed in marketing messages to allow products to stand out on the shelves," says the firm. Mintel says Novartis' Excedrin products had about 8% share of the OTC analgesics market last year.




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