No Madison Avenue historic reel would be complete without commercials for analgesics. Excedrin headaches and Anacin’s screaming moms
and dads are among my favorites. Did you know that heroin was marketed
as a cough medication until 1910 when it was found to be a more effective pain
reliever than morphine?
In 1984 in the United States Whitehall launched Advil and Upjohn launched Nuprin, analgesics with ibuprofen, the first major new ingredient in OTC pain relief in decades. It was a race to establish brand supremacy before the patent expired.
I was the strategic planner on Advil. Spendthrift Whitehall spent a ridiculously tiny sum on consumer research I conducted to finalize the brand name and package design. We copytested four commercials. The agency creatives pushed hard for an overly-produced campaign with futuristic images of pills and snazzy graphics. The client insisted on a ponderously simple commercial we called “Rolling Pills.” I quietly sided with them. It was the most spectacular case of “the client is right” I’ve ever seen. If
you have “First there was aspirin, then there was Tylenol, and now there’s Advil” drilled into your head, this is why.