J&J ads aim to fight Tylenol worries

Johnson & Johnson has long been a case study for crisis managers everywhere. Remember the Tylenol scare back in the early '80s? Ever since, J&J has drawn kudos for its quick-and-thorough response to that PR disaster. It's a standard case study in business textbooks; almost every business school grad has studied it.

And this new Tylenol crisis is no different. In the wake of an FDA advisory panel's vote to limit acetaminophen dosage last week, J&J hit the ground running, splashing full-page ads in national newspapers to reassure the public that their pain reliever is safe if taken at the proper dosage.

That expert panel recommended lowering the maximum daily dose of acetaminophen, and even suggested that Extra Strength Tylenol become available only by prescription. It also advised bans on several prescription painkillers that contain acetaminophen in addition to other pain relievers.

Pharma watchers told the Wall Street Journal that they expect J&J to continue its Tylenol-is-safe marketing campaign as the FDA considers its advisors' recommendations. (The agency says it plans to issue a decision within three to six months.) The company will have to tread carefully to make sure it doesn't overpromise on the safety side, though, because that could draw the FDA's ire. Whatever happens, the marketing world will be watching to see if J&J handles this problem as deftly as it did the cyanide scandal. Let us know your thoughts.

- read the WSJ story