Deutsch, Tylenol: Shared Values

NEW YORK When Bill McComb became a client of Interpublic Group’s Deutsch three years ago, one of the first things he said to Val DiFebo, a co-president at the agency, was, “Scare the hell out of me.”

By that, the company group chairman for Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy unit meant that he wanted DiFebo and her team to come up with creative that was risky and imaginative for its Tylenol brands. The level of imagination and creativity is first and foremost the responsibility of clients, not agencies, McComb said, which is just one of the reasons that the client and New York agency’s partnership has worked so well.

The presentation about Tylenol at the Time Warner Center today was part of the Dynamic Duos series of Advertising Week.

Sitting before a large screen filled with photos of other “dynamic duos” such as Batman and Robin, Lucy and Desi, Cheech and Chong, and Ben and Jerry, among others, McComb and DiFebo talked about what they thought was the basis of any impactful partnership: shared values.

One of Deutsch’s “scary” ideas became the basis of Tylenol’s campaign about responsible dosages. The company wanted so strongly to drive home the idea that consumers should always read labels for over-the-counter drugs, that Tylenol would rather not have consumers use their product if they weren’t going to do so responsibly.

Research from DePuy and Deutsch showed that a significant number of consumers took higher than the recommended dosage of store-bought medications. And mothers with infants or small children tended not to read labels and also to dispense too high a dosage to their kids.

“People think that because OTC drugs are sold next to gum and candy and vitamins, that you can take them the way you take gum and candy and vitamins,” DiFebo said. The agency positioned Tylenol as a responsible drug company.

“Tylenol owns responsibility,” McComb said, referring to Deutsch’s “Stop. Think. Tylenol” campaign. “When people don’t adhere to proper dosages, they get into trouble. And that creates more trouble” for the brand.

One print ad directed at moms read: “Our infants’ medicine isn’t half as concentrated as our children’s. It’s three times more concentrated.” It also directed consumers to a Web site created by iDeutsch that contained additional information about side effects, what the medications could and could not be taken with, and other general medicine-related questions.

A TV spot went so far as to have Brenda Bass, vp of sales for Tylenol brands, talk directly to the camera about dosage responsibility. And if consumers didn’t use Tylenol responsibly, “I’d rather you didn’t take it at all,” Bass says in the spot. “And if that means fewer sales of Tylenol, that’s just fine with me.”

That was the result of the breakthrough, even “scary” idea that Deutsch came up with McComb said, and the success of the DePuy-Deutsch duo or any duo can’t happen unless each partner treats the other like a customer. The basis of that relationship comes from each side’s “commitment to the relationship and to a shared goal. And to honestly articulating that goal,” he said.