When Novartis Consumer Health got FDA over-the-counter approval for Prevacid 24HR, a treatment for frequent heartburn sufferers, last May, more than 100,000 retailers welcomed the launch with a vast array of in-store promotions.
It wasn’t just the popularity of the medication; Prevacid 24HR is the first and only OTC proton pump inhibitor in its original formulation. “This was really important for Novartis and received a significant investment. It could be their largest OTC launch to date,” said David Mele, Novartis Consumer Health account director at Norwalk, Conn.-based Marketing Drive, which handled the in-store pitch. “There are so many retailers involved with so much display. This was about providing (promotional) depth, to blanket the store about the launch.”
Published estimates put spending behind the integrated advertising pitch at $200 million; Mele declined to say how much of that was spent on in-store promotions.
Even before the November 12 launch, Novartis began running a teaser campaign a month earlier, with a retail component using shelf-signage announcing that the brand was “Coming Soon.” Some retailers even cleared shelf space for Prevacid 24HR in the weeks prior to its arrival, putting in place materials about Prevacid's OTC availability. One of the more unusual launch elements was a floor stand shaped like a Prevacid capsule containing bilingual brochures with $2 coupons.
Participating retailers created customized adaptations of in-store displays and supported TV ads. Novartis’ retail partners included mass merchandisers like Walmart, Target and Costco; drug chains Walgreens, CVS/pharmacy and Rite Aid; and grocers Kroger and Safeway.
The message was consistent in the marketing campaign. “The focus was to drive awareness that Prevacid was coming out from behind the pharmaceutical counter and that was driven by the product’s benefit: 24-hour treatment of indigestion,” said Mele. He added that Novartis continues retail support for Prevacid 24HR at the "same levels" as when it was launched.
In addition to Marketing Drive, Sonoco Corrflex, Hartsville, S.C., created the displays and Crossmark in Plano, Texas, handled in-store executions. Deustch is Prevacid’s agency of record and handled TV and print ads, while Tribal DDB is the brand’s digital agency.