Ads push good taste envelope

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DETROIT – Picture this: A mighty ball of mucus makes its home in someone’s lungs.

Sound like a nightmare come true during cold season? Maybe. But it’s also a TV commercial by Adams Respiratory Therapeutics for its Mucinex medicine.

It’s not your mind playing tricks on you. These days, ads seem to be getting grosser by the minute, from Mucinex’s slimy Mr. Mucus character to the heartburn-and-diarrhea jingle and dance created for Procter & Gamble’s Pepto-Bismol commercials. The ads push the limits of decency and threaten to make you lose your lunch, but they’re also quite successful.

“There are a lot of good commercials … but having said that, do we really remember the brand name and what it’s all about?” said Mike Bernacchi, a marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy. “Any commercial that makes its mark and can be remembered gets over its first hurdle.”

In the case of Mucinex, Mr. Mucus, a computer-generated, slimy, stocky green glob with a raspy voice, helped increase consumer awareness of the drug when the character was introduced in 2004. According to a recent USA Today Ad Track survey, 23 percent of respondents considered the ads very effective, compared with the industry average of 21 percent.

Adams says the mucus blob is a big reason sales of the medicine, which uses the slogan “Mucinex in, mucus out,” were up 75 percent to $63.2 million for the quarter ended Dec. 31.

Adams has five commercials featuring Mr. Mucus as he moves his belongings into the bodies of unsuspecting cold victims. In the latest ads, called “Dance to the Mucus,” a congested woman wonders what’s going on in her sinuses as Mr. Mucus and his friends dance in a conga line inside them. Later, she blows them into a tissue. People can view the commercials at www.mucinex.com.

“Mucinex is a really effective product, and when it’s taken in the correct dosages, there’s nothing like it,” said M’lou Arnett, Adams’ vice president of marketing. “But the change in our sales when we turned on advertising indicates that the Mr. Mucus advertising resonates with consumers.”

For its part, P&G’s Pepto-Bismol has been airing commercials since 2004 featuring its Dance Lineup campaign. The commercials feature adults and children singing a catchy song about various stomach and digestive ailments and doing descriptive dances that simulate uncomfortable conditions like a sour stomach and acid indigestion.

One commercial, created by Publicis Worldwide, shows different people performing dance moves that involve rubbing their stomachs and putting their hands on their backsides as if to stop something from escaping. Other TV ads show basketball players, little girl ballerinas and even elves doing the same kinds of moves.

On its Web site, www.peptobismol.com, the company takes the campaign a step further by allowing visitors to make characters they choose from a lineup complete various dance gestures using the Pepto-Bismol Dance Machine.

“Either people absolutely love it or love to hate it,” said Crystal Harrell, a P&G spokeswoman, noting that, either way, it “sticks in your head.”

Meanwhile, in commercials since 2003 for its prescription Lamisil tablets, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. has featured a nail fungi organism named Digger the Dermatophyte who claws his way under a toenail and turns it thick, flaky and yellowish.

The angry-looking creature, which has a tail and a sinister voice, brings his fungi friends to dig and party under nails as well.

On the company’s Web site, www.lamisil.com, potential customers can learn about the nail fungus infection called “onychomycosis” and also read a detailed story about how Digger made himself comfy under a victim’s toenails even as over-the-counter medicines failed to work. “I’m outta here,” he says finally after being defeated by Lamisil.

“The campaign has been successful,” said Joan Harmeyer, a Novartis spokeswoman. “It’s given people an avenue to go to find if they have the disease.”

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