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Executive Summary

MARION MERRELL DOW's GAVISCON ANTACID "BARRIER" TO REFLUX CLAIM is being promoted in a new ad campaign emphasizing Gaviscon's potency in fighting heartburn. The ads, highlighting Gaviscon's formulation as creating "a special barrier that virtually prevents stomach acid from backing up into the lower esophagus," are the latest in the increased efforts by OTC antacid marketers to introduce the ethical drug vocabulary of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) into the consumer lexicon. The current ad campaign is not so much a new twist on Gaviscon positioning as an effort to heighten consumer awareness of the brand. Launched by Marion Labs in 1987, Gaviscon always has been promoted as containing an ingredient, alginic acid, which converts to sodium alginate and floats on top of stomach contents to prevent acid reflux. However, the new campaign is breaking at the same time as Rhone-Poulenc Rorer's $15 mil. launch for its new Maalox HRF Heartburn Relief Formula ("The Pink Sheet" Feb. 17, In Brief). Gaviscon ads will also compete with the ongoing Johnson & Johnson Merck joint venture campaign, "My doctor said Mylanta," which plays off the idea of heartburn so serious, the consumer thinks he or she has an ulcer. The latest spate of antacid ads also appears to be laying further groundwork for the anticipated arrival of OTC versions of H[2] antagonists. Marion Merrell Dow said the ad campaign is focused on promoting Gaviscon as the antacid that is "stronger and lasts longer." The company is launching a "four-pronged" campaign that includes free-standing coupon inserts in newspapers, professional journal ads, commercials, on "Lifetime" cable television and special programming, also on Lifetime. Four 30-minute specials began airing on the Lifetime medical channel Feb. 23 and will continue for the next three Sundays, the company said. The programs feature a gastroenterologist talking about GERD and the variety of treatments available for the condition. Print ads are being placed in about 10 major medical journals, including Gastroenterology, Annals of Internal Medicine and American Family Physician. The ads started in February and are scheduled to run for several months.

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