How Zicam made the most of TV's cold season

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Today, in the United States, there are an estimated 100,000 over-the-counter drug products marketed and sold in a variety of outlets, such as pharmacies and convenience stores, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

This congested landscape has made it more difficult for brands to get their voice heard. One of such brand is Zicam, maker of a branded series of products for cold and allergy relief, whose original formulations included the element zinc.

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While successful, the company wasn't reaching enough of their target customers with its contextual TV strategy. And with a cold season, which provides a short window for peak sales volume, approaching, Zicam had to figure out a better approach.


Zicam was invented and developed by Charles B. Hensley and Robert Steven Davidson in the mid 1990s and is produced, marketed and sold by Zicam, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Matrixx Initiatives, Inc.

The company originally marketed the “pre-cold” remedy through mass campaigns that were displayed on television, billboards, and in magazines. And while these campaigns were incredibly successful, the company recognized a change needed to occur.

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Zicam's advertising strategy is contingent on the cold and flu season, which hits with varying intensity in different parts of the country, so mass marketing through traditional media no longer made sense.

Instead, Zicam would focus its ad spending on hyper-targeted TV and programmatic advertising.


Zicam's new approach would require a new partnership.

Cue: Simulmedia, a targeted television advertising company.

The partnership was built on Simulmedia's ability to help marketers find precise audiences on specific TV shows that go well beyond basic demographic targeting.

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"Zicam competes in a fiercely contested market," said Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia. "Not surprisingly, the brand must drive performance from its TV advertising.”

The company, which has had partnerships with two broadcast networks and many cable networks, can zero in on individual TV shows that reach high concentrations of Zicam's key targets (such as women with children who make household purchases).

“Simulmedia helps us to move away from big blocks of demographic data and get down to who our actual buyers are likely to be, so we can more precisely target them and be more effective and efficient with our media spend,” says Lori Norian, VP of Marketing at Matrixx Initiatives, in a press release.

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The solution for a greater return on Zicam television ads by Simulmedia was two fold: custom targeting and data-optimized delivery.

Simulmedia Created a custom target based on age, gender, household income, and multiple MRI attributes to better hone in on the target audience.

“As a result of using Simulmedia's proprietary technology to expose Zicam's message to more of its target consumers on TV and measure its positive impact on sales, Simulmedia has been able to satisfy this need for performance,” says Morgan. After forecasting where to find the target audience on TV, the campaign ran on 59 national networks, while some ran locally on a variety of networks.


As the cold season came to a close, Zicam boasted significant results.

According to Simulmedia, which viewed data to determine the campaign's impact, Zicam had a 267% greater conversion rate by exposed viewers.

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The significant conversion rate led to a $23 million in incremental sales during the 12-week campaign, or $4.53 incremental retail return on ad spend.

“Zicam has been a great partner and proof that there is a better, more data-driven approach to buying and measuring TV advertising,” says Morgan.

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