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Advertisers Have Monica on Their Minds

Alka-Seltzer antacid and Cross pens are among products that have played off the controversy in Washington.

November 26, 1998|KEN WOO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As impeachment hearings for President Clinton kick into full gear, so do ads that play off the proceedings.

Bayer began running Alka-Seltzer ads Wednesday on heartburn inside the Beltway featuring the political couple of James Carville and Mary Matalin.

Earlier this month, pen maker Cross began airing ads touting its portable digital note pad while poking fun at the inefficiency of Washington, namely the 40,000 pages of the Starr Report.

"At a time of such political heartburn, we couldn't resist having Alka-Seltzer offer its unique brand of relief," said Gus Braun, brand manager for the antacid.

Although the impeachment proceedings are not mentioned in the 30-second commercial, Carville, a Clinton advisor, and Matalin, a former Republican strategist, are in front of the Grant Memorial, just down the street from the Capitol.

The couple discuss the need for something to be done about the heartburn, pressure and pain in Washington.

"Amazingly," the announcer cuts in, "Alka-Seltzer does."

Braun declined to specify costs of the ad campaign, but did say that the amount being spent to air the ad for two weeks exceeds Alka-Seltzer's 1997 ad budget by 65%. The blitz is aimed at easing the pain such competitors as Pepcid AC and Zantac 75 have caused Alka-Seltzer, which, according to data from Information Resources Inc., has just 4% of the $1.6-billion stomach-remedy market.

The ad for the CrossPad portable digital note pad begins with footage of the numerous boxes of the Starr Report being wheeled into a government office.

"To every American who thinks that searching through them [paperwork] was a waste of time . . . we say, you're absolutely right," the ad starts.

The spot then shows how the CrossPad can store digital copies of handwritten notes by selecting keywords such as "oval office" while writing with a special pen on the note pad.

"Everybody remembers the first day when they brought in all those boxes," said Brian Mullins, director of marketing for Cross Pen Computing Group, a unit of A.T. Cross Co. "But this ad is not just a gimmick, it makes paperwork a lot easier, especially 40,000 pages."

Mullins said the company spent close to $500,000 on the 30-second commercial, which has appeared on major local network affiliates and national cable channels.

Some ads have already stirred controversy.

A recent print ad campaign from clothier Tommy Hilfiger picturing a model siting on a desk in what appears to be the Oval Office was changed to remove any similarities to the White House. The ad ran in magazines including Vanity Fair, Glamour, Harper's Bazaar, GQ and Forbes.

And the ads are going abroad too.

Global ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide won an advertising contest recently with a poster ad featuring Clinton with a photo of Monica Lewinsky pinned to his forehead. The caption read: "Tylenol Extra Strength. For a Strong Headache."

The ad, created by the Saatchi office in Uruguay, never appeared in public, the agency and a representative of Tylenol said. The ad nonetheless captured the "best poster" ad prized at the 1998 London International Advertising Awards.

Officials at McNeil Consumer Healthcare, makers of Tylenol and a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, said the ad was created without their approval.

"No, no, we would never run that here in the States," said Ron Schmid, a spokesman for McNeil. "They [advertisers in Uruguay] have a lot more leeway than we do here. We would not condone it here. It is not in line with our brand equity."

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