PTS Tries Star Power for Children's Medicine

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PTS Labs begins a direct mail campaign in October to 9,000 consumers informing them about the use of the name and likeness of Blue from Nickelodeon's "Blue's Clues" on ReVital Pediatric Electrolyte packaging and marketing material.

An oversize postcard will tell PTS' database, mostly moms with children ages 6 months to 4 years, that its Hugs the Penguin character will be replaced as part of the new three-year licensing deal with Nickelodeon. Created in-house, Hugs was the ReVital mascot for four years.

The postcard drops Oct. 1 and includes a $1-off coupon for buying ReVital, a remedy for children dehydrated from cold or flu. Johnson Rauhoff, St. Joseph, MI, works on the account.

"Obviously, it's going to help moms," said John Hillsman, director of sales and marketing at PTS, Rosemont, IL. "Getting a child to take an unknown 'penguin' medicine is pretty difficult, compliance-wise. Getting a child to take a medicine that has Blue's Clues is real easy from a mom's perspective."

The postcard will go to consumers who have called into PTS lines to complain, compliment or ask for more information on the over-the-counter treatment for fluid loss due to vomiting and diarrhea. All opted in, these names were collected over 18 months.

Though the card is a work in progress, Hillsman said the front is likely to show images of Blue's Clues and Hugs the Penguin. Headline copy will say something to the effect of, "We're making some personnel changes."

The coupon on the back of the mailer is good for ReVital in old and new packaging. The ReVital logo and Web site address at will be part of the postcard as well.

"With that rendition of the postcard, we're going to see how that response goes, and, obviously, if we see that working, we'll probably drop another one in season," Hillsman said.

"October [begins] our prominent season, the cold and flu season," he said. "So beginning in October and running through mid-April is really the time. So if we have a good enough response to that Oct. 1 mailing, where we see coupons being redeemed, then obviously we can do another drop rather quickly, probably in mid-January."

The company took out an advertisement in February in Working Mother magazine. Readers were invited to call for free samples of ReVital. Calls are still coming in.

"What we do know has happened with the Working Mother situation is kind of friend-tell-a-friend," Hillsman said. "It's been a pretty viral campaign. We're only in there for one issue, and we're still getting people calling us about the ad six months later."

The postcard, however, is one component of a $5 million investment by PTS in on-shelf promotions, professional detailing, trade support and ads in women's service publications and titles like Nick Jr. magazine.

An 8-page insert is planned for the upcoming December-January issue of Nick Jr. The sweepstakes in that issue will be designed to boost PTS' database for ReVital.

Licensing Blue's Clues is expected to help 6-year-old PTS expand ReVital's market share and compete with category leader Ross Labs' Pedialyte and Gerber.

ReVital will be Nickelodeon's first licensed pediatric electrolyte product, opening a new non-traditional licensing category for the entertainment brand owned by New York media giant Viacom.

Blue's Clues has garnered more than $2 billion in retail sales in the past three years. Nickelodeon claims it is one of the top preschool properties in the United States. It has 500-plus licensees worldwide.

Hillsman said Blue's Clues was selected from three licensing candidates after conducting focus groups in the Midwest, Southeast and Southwest, the areas of strongest sales for ReVital. Young mothers and their children liked interacting with the character. The educational value and blue color helped as well.

The new ReVital packaging debuts on store shelves in early fall. The brand will be available in liquid squeezers, jell cups, jell tubes, 1-liter bottles and multipacks. The suggested retail price is $5.29 for a package, or $4.99 for the 1-liter bottle.

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