Waking the slumbering over-the-counter drug category for the first time, McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals introduced Tylenol PM to the gay market in June 2003.
While a household brand like Tylenol needs little "introduction" to anyone, it is the first-ever nonprescription drug to be aimed at gays. Ads for Tylenol PM -- a pain reliever with sleep aid -- will break in OUT and The Advocate, along with a supporting sponsorship of New York City's Pride parade.
Nonprescription drugs, supported by multi million dollar ad budgets, most often seek mass audiences rather than select groups like the gay community. For years, drug companies have sought gay audiences only for HIV related medications and a few other prescription needs, such as Propecia hair replacement and Androgel testosterone therapies.
"We're making a shift to niche advertising from mass efforts," says Bill Donovan, marketing manager for Tylenol PM. "We're going more local with events and newspapers. Everything else is just going through the motions."
Donovan is seeking to educate gay consumers and grow the brand, which had $180 million in 2002 sales. "Ninety-five percent of sleepless nights go untreated," he says. "Our biggest competition (for treatment) is TV!" The brand was supported by $30 million in advertising last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.
After hiring a consultant who pulled together existing research and gay focus groups late last year, Donvan says, "A lot of things started to add up and we realized they are fertile ground for treating sleeplessness."
The Tylenol PM ad shows a smiling, thirty-something mixed-race man in a white tank top, sitting in bed accompanied by the text, "For a great morning after." It carries the tagline: "Not playing is not an option." The ad includes the Keith Haring-designed logo of Heritage of Pride, the New York City Pride organizer, as part of its sponsorship.
The ad looks very similar to the mainstream effort, picturing a black woman and a list of stressful things from her day.
"We didn't want to look too stereotypical or contrite," explains Jim Joseph, president of CP Partners, Princeton, NJ, which created the gay campaign. (Saatchi & Saatchi is the lead agency for Tylenol PM.) "We wanted to let folks know that we understand their lives and that a busy, active lifestyle can produce things that won't let them sleep. The details of the (man's) day are meant to be loose, it could be muscle pain from a workout, tension headache from work, or a night out with friends. The message is you can wake up fresh and do it all over again."
Starting off with tailored ads is a sign of confidence, since companies more often initially take a cautious approach into gay marketing by using existing mainstream ads for gay publications. "We weren't going to just slap a mainstream media ad into a gay magazine and say, 'See, we target the gay market,' " says Joseph.
While other marketers are lured by the possible size of gay incomes, education levels or vaunted loyalty, those details were less important to Donovan. "It's really about the insight that they may suffer more." He found that research showed the gay market has "some great characteristics for a sleep aid," such as a higher propensity to travel (crossing time zones and unfamiliar hotels as contributing factors), and fewer children in the household. "Parents index low for treatment," he notes.
Significantly, existing Tylenol PM users are more female (60%), but gay market research data focuses on men, Donovan says, so the campaign presently targets gay men primarily in their 30s.
Joseph sees the situation as both a challenge and an opportunity. "Looking at the numbers, there's a huge opportunity to get the male users up. It became a perfect initiative -- this is uncharted territory, not everyone is screaming at these folks," he says, noting the lack of other OTC remedies. The campaign will include surveys at the NYC Pride parade and online at Advocate.com to collect more consumer information, including on gay women.
Joseph, who is openly gay, spent five years internally as a product manager in the skin care division Johnson & Johnson, which oversees McNeil. His marketing promotion agency handles a number of J&J over-the-counter brands, including Mylanta, Motrin and Pepcid AC. Both he and Donovan say if the introduction goes well, there's a good chance more J&J brands such as Simply Sleep -- and, inevitably, other OTC products -- will cross over too.
The arrival of Tylenol is an evolution for J&J, which has slowly entered the gay market with KY Liquid lubricant and Neutrogena. The company introduced KY Plus in 1996, and last year debuted Neutrogena for Men in gay media simultaneously with mainstream publications.
Donovan promises a continued presence in gay media and bigger budget in 2004. "Part of 'loyalty' is just speaking to folks directly," he says. "I expect to blow this out even more."