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Media buys or jingles: What wins antacid sales?

Antacids have an outsized influence in media and advertising. “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz,” “Rolaids spells relief” and “Tum tum tum tum tuuuum!” are three of the most memorable taglines of all time, and they all hail from heartburn remedies. The sector is so near and dear to our hearts that a 1960s antacid tablet case is even stored at the Smithsonian.

In spite of this influence on our minds and our stomachs, antacid manufacturers as a category spend much less on advertising than the country’s biggest advertisers, which spend $1 billion or more annually to keep their brands top-of-mind.

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So how do antacids steal so much mindshare? Perhaps it’s in their strategic advertising buys. While the largest marketers spend over $5 million on SuperBowl ads, most of the biggest-spending antacid brands are spending a significant portion of their TV budget on cable, leaning into repetition and niche targeting.

According to Alphonso data, Nexium — 2017’s leading antacid tablet brand in U.S. sales — spent $1.6 million on the four broadcast channels (CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox) in September and nearly as much across many cable networks during that time period. Prilosec OTC, Nexium’s biggest challenger, spent $1.75 million on TV in September, with 63%, or $1.1 million, going to the cable networks. And, yes “Tum, tum, tum, tums” too! (Can you hear the Dragnet theme?) Tums spent $1.4 million on TV ad space, of that approximately 57%, or $800,000, was spent on cable. Alka-Seltzer spent over $1 million in September, with just 36% of that spend going to broadcast.

Zantac, on the other hand, shook this trend and spent largely on broadcast. Out of $1.25 million spent on TV in September, 67% went to broadcast, or $838,000, out of a total TV spend of $1.25 million. I’ll be keeping my eye out for its 2018 sales figures to see if it worked.

This all leads to my ultimate question: how influential is strategic, targeted TV media buying versus catchy jingles or slogans when It comes to mindshare in the antacid category? The answer: Likely very influential. While consumers might not be able to recite Nexium’s current slogan (it’s: “Imagine 24 hours without heartburn”), Nexium is the heartburn remedy brand they remember when they’re walking down the OTC aisle.

TS Kelly of AlphonsoTS Kelly is senior vice president of research for Alphonso, a TV data company that provides real-time TV campaign analytics, one-to-one TV ad retargeting, and closed-loop attribution for brands and agencies. In his role at Alphonso, Kelly deep dives into television data and insights, giving clients guidance on how to optimize their TV spend.
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