Tums Plays Up ‘Fast Relief’ in New Ads

GlaxoSmithKline today (Monday) launched a new campaign for Tums, with a message that it hopes will stick: Fast relief for common heartburn.

Called “Food Fight,” the campaign, by WPP-owned Grey, New York, shows how consumers—and the foods they crave—are engaged in a love/hate relationship. One ad, for instance, shows a man eating a chicken wing, as it slaps him in the face. Scenarios in other ads include a taco rebelling against a man, and spaghetti hitting a woman as she dines.

The spots, which debuted on network and cable TV, are a departure from previous campaigns for Tums. Past ads typically showed an overindulgent—and oftentimes overweight—eater gorging on heartburn-triggering foods. But the new ads depict ordinary consumers in ordinary situations. Darren Singer, vp-marketing for the Tums brand, said the shift reflects more current consumer attitudes towards food.

“Nowadays, people are making smarter, healthier food choices. It’s no longer about a big guy in a diner eating a triple burger,” Singer said. “We want to swoop in as Tums and save people from a night that might not go so well.”

The Tums effort comes as rival Novartis is charging ahead with its largest ad campaign ever for over-the-counter drug Prevacid24HR. Following the Food and Drug Administration’s approval, Prevacid24HR’s launch has resulted in $25.6 million in sales, a small sliver in a growing $1.2 billion antacid drug category, per IRI. Tums sales, however, were down 2.54 percent, while private label led the category with a 37.29 percent increase, or $329 million in sales. (Data is for 52 weeks ended Jan. 24, and excludes Walmart sales.)

GlaxoSmithKline maintains that Prevacid24Hr is not detracting sales from Tums. Most of its consumers suffer from “moderate” and not severe heartburn. GlaxoSmithKline’s ads play up the brand’s core benefits. All three spots end with the tagline, “Fights heartburn fast,” and the well-known jingle, “Tums, Tums, Tums, Tums, Tums.”

Jon Sayegh, the Grey copywriter and associate creative director who worked on the effort, said due to the launch of several line extensions, consumers have forgotten Tums’ main message. “You talk to consumers and no one owns ‘fast relief’ . . . They just need to be reminded of why they should reach for [Tums] first,” Sayegh said.

GlaxoSmithKline is also pushing the word out via sports tie-ins, such as sponsorship of David Reutimann’s No. 00 Toyota Camry in the 2010 Spring Cup Series. And the brand is turning to social media: It’s posting commercials on Facebook and YouTube, and leveraging Twitter. “I expect and hope that consumers out there will want to share the types of foods that fight against them and tell us how Tums has helped them fight back,” Singer said of the role social networks will play in the campaign.

The pharma company spent $19 million advertising Tums in 2008, and $18 million through the first 11 months of last year, excluding online, per the Nielsen Co.