Rolaids is back, with ‘survey’ results to bolster its return

EMILY2Yesterday, Sanofi Canada issued a news release announcing that “iconic brand Rolaids is back,” and not a moment too soon because the drug company commissioned an Ipsos survey that showed – quel surprise! – that the January-to-March period is “heartburn season”!

The news release presents the results of the ‘research’ in detail, but fails to remind us when and why Rolaids ever left us. The release did remind us that, as a commercial several years ago claimed, the spelling of ‘relief’ is remarkably similar to the spelling of the brand name, and that not only is Rolaids back, but Sanofi is the new owner of the brand.

The “omnibus web survey” involved more than 1,100 adults,  365 of whom said they suffered from heartburn and that it was worst at this time of year. That stunning revelation came  in response to questions asking specifically whether the January-to-March period was the most stressful of the year and the time during which they had the worst heartburn.

A new survey conducted by Ipsos and commissioned by Sanofi Canada, reveals that 54% of Canadians who suffer from heartburn at least once a month say they feel the most stressed during the January-March period. In addition, 36% polled said they suffer from the worst heartburn during the same period. Strangely, though, the top causes of stress and heartburn did not include preparing income tax returns.

Well, okay — Sanofi can trumpet the return of Rolaids any way it wants. And it makes sense for business news media to pick up the story.

If advertising masquerading as editorial is ‘advertorial,’ then shouldn’t research done solely to bolster advertising be called an ‘adversurvey’?

Which the Toronto Star did. The 222-word story reminds us that the antacid has been off store shelves for three years because of a voluntary recall in 2010 following consumer reports of an “unusual odour” connected to metal and wood particles found in the tablets, which were sold at the time by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of Johnson & Johnson.

The Star  ate — and regurgitated — the Sanofi news release.

But then the Star shows that it ate — and regurgitated — the Sanofi release. The item bylined only “thestar.com,” then went on to include details of the survey (which was done solely for promotional purposes) along with the history of the chalky tablets and the famous advertising slogan about spelling.

Contrast the Star’s hook-line-and-sinker coverage with that of Marc Weisbrott at canada.com (the Postmedia website). Weisbrott’s story covers the return of Rolaids  (noting too that the metal and wood particles of yesteryear were accompanied by complaints of gum injuries, nausea and vomiting) — along with the Sanofi puffery, told with more than a nudge and a wink.

Marc Weisbrott at canada.com used the Sanofi puffery, with a nudge and a wink.

In fact, Weisbrott’s lede called attention to the adversurvey*: “The legendary antacid whose name was defined as a better spelling for ‘relief’ has returned to Canadian retailers after more than three years, announced its new owner on Thursday, along with the results of a survey designed to promote the magic power of Rolaids.” (Emphasis is mine; and *if advertising masquerading as editorial is “advertorial,” then shouldn’t research done solely to bolster advertising be called an “adversurvey”?)

Weisbrott’s piece — which weighs in at just over 600 words, interspersed with videos of TV commercials past and present — provides results of the survey in broad strokes and how the company has chosen to use them to inform its advertising campaign, but in a very low-key way:

“The survey conducted by Ipsos showed that people are stressed out due to heavy meals, the cold weather and having to deal with bills from the holiday season,” Weisbrott writes. “With approximately eight million Canadians estimated to be dealing with the effects, there must be enough demand out there for Rolaids, although an advertising campaign is required to remind the country of the existence of a product that was historically marketed with a sense of humour.

“Nonetheless, the new commercials for Canada focus on discomfort in a deadpan style…

“The advertising is intended to send the message that Rolaids help provide clarity: ‘Don’t let heartburn get in the way’ does not have the same ring to it, though.

“ ‘When we look at some of the competitors in this category, they’re very much into the over-indulgence, junk food, over-the-top humour,’ Dave Legendre, account director of advertising agency LG2 told trade magazine Marketing.

“ ‘We tried to be a bit more straight-to-the-point and avoid that over-indulgence message. That’s not really what Rolaids is about.’ ”

To its credit, Marketing stuck to its brief and covered only the ad campaign and ignored the adversurvey.~TM

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