Dr. Reddy's revives ex-Novartis OTC brands with slate of new ad campaigns

Dr. Reddy's is reviving the once well-known OTC back pain relief brand Doan's with a national TV and digital push.

Remember Doan’s for back pain? It's back, thanks to Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, which is breathing new marketing life into a handful of brands it bought from New Jersey-based Ducere Pharma last year. Ducere bought the portfolio from Novartis in 2013 after the brands had been off the market for two years.

The drugs include Doan’s, Bufferin, Nupercainal Ointment, Cruex Nail Gel, Comtrex, and Myoflex, and Dr. Reddy’s is initially focusing on the biggest three—Doan’s, Bufferin, and Nupercainal—for marketing pushes. Doan’s was the first national TV campaign to debut two weeks ago.

The heritage OTC pain reliever's digital campaign intent is to revive the once well-known back-pain brand. The TV ads began last month with a 15-second spot that notes, “Doan’s—we’ve had your back’s back since way back.”

“The brands have had high brand awareness in the past, so the challenge was, 'how do we bring it back to the current market, but also bring it to a new generation of potential sufferers?'” Lauren Schulz, director of OTC brand marketing at Dr. Reddy’s, said in an interview.

The campaign includes a website revamp, digital and search ad placements along with TV. Initial results are promising, Schulz said. Doan’s awareness, for example, went from 35% to 43% in eight test markets surveyed.

Dr. Reddy’s has also updated the product, last year adding a new Doan’s cream that's meant to target younger uses, while the traditional analgesic tends to track older. But expect more marketing—along with more OTC brands from the portfolio—to come out.

Bufferin and Nupercainal have also begun with digital-only campaigns, although Dr. Reddy’s did start test TV for Nupercainal in several markets last week.

“Dr. Reddy’s invested in these assets to grow them. They went after this portfolio specifically because it was brand names that people knew with room to grow, but had just been ignored,” Schulz said.

The challenge Dr. Reddy’s faces is formidable, with many well-established competitors in OTC pain relief such as Advil, Tylenol, Aleve and Exedrin. The U.S. market in 2016 for internal analgesics was $4.12 billion, while sales of external analgesic pain relievers was $734 million, according to the Consumer Healthcare Product Association.