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Asher/Gal to Launch B3

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Japan's largest drug company has selected Asher/Gal & Partners to shepherd the U.S. launch of a vitamin enriched "energy drink" that has been popular in the client's homeland for nearly 40 years.

The beverage, B3 Energy Drink, is being introduced here by Tokyo-based Taisho Pharmaceuticals with a $5-$10 million campaign.

Beginning with a rollout in South California early next year, the campaign is aimed at capturing market share in a segment of the soft-drink business that is expected to surge in the near future.

Introduced in Japan in 1962 and sold in other countries as Lipovitan, B3 wants to directly challenge Red Bull, which is being launched in the U.S. with the help of the Los Angeles startup Lunch.

Like Red Bull, B3 is packaged in aluminum cans containing slightly more than eight ounces of beverage. Both drinks contain a unique formula that includes B vitamins and caffeine.

"This represents an entirely new category in soft drinks; it is not a line extension,'' said Ken Gal, president and CEO of the agency. He added the campaign is likely to feature humorous TV commercials aimed at consumers in their early to mid-20s.

He added that the client is well positioned to seize a leadership role in a burgeoning segment of the $57 billion soft-drink market.

While Taisho is largely focused on developing and marketing prescription drugs, it also offers a wide array of over-the-counter items.

"This is a client that spends $200 million on ads in Europe and Asia,'' Gal said referring to Taisho's total ad budget for advertising nonprescription products outside this country.

"Clearly, they are prepared to support this launch," Gal added.

While Asher/Gal has never had a soft-drink account on its client roster, it has handled campaigns for two brands of beer: Pabst Blue Ribbon and Hamms.

In addition, the shop's partner and chief creative officer, Bruce Dundore, helped create Pepsi's "Choice of a New Generation" campaign in the mid-1980s while working at BBDO in New York. Gal added that he also worked on the Pepsi account during his career.

Kevin Tran, marketing manager for Taisho, noted that Asher/Gal was selected after an open review.

"After talking to several agencies, it was clear that Asher/Gal truly understands our products, our target and the marketing challenges," said Tran.