By Henry Ehrlich
Many years ago, I was at dinner with friends–both doctors–in a nice French restaurant when they got a call from the babysitter. Their children and mine had decided to climb up on the kitchen counter to see how many Flintstone vitamins they could eat. Their elder daughter started to vomit. We rushed back to the house. All was well. No hyper-vitaminosis. Today, the barfer is a PhD candidate.
I was thinking about this recently in conjunction with the news that Children’s Claritin® has a commercial tie-in with Dreamworks’ new movie “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.”
“As part of the first-ever entertainment product tie-in, the makers of Children’s Claritin® releases [sic] customized packaging on their Grape Chewables and Grape Syrup products featuring free Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted themed stickers. Additionally, a ‘Free Movie Ticket Offer’ promotion is being administered with a purchase at Walgreens. On its Facebook page, the makers of Children’s Claritin® is [sic] also offering a free, downloadable Madagascar Inspired Circus Activity Guide and a Madagascar themed ‘Circus Stackers’ game. The makers of Children’ Claritin supports the film with online, television and print advertising, as well as a social media program.”
Additionally, they offer “activity books that parents can download for their children and the enlistment of a team of mothers who blog to hold Claritin-themed Madagascar viewing parties for their children and friends.” For a good time call Claritin Blogger Mom!
Look, I have a lot of respect for the Claritin brand, as well as the generic version loratadine. I use it myself, as do other family members. The stuff works. It is over-the-counter. It is reasonably priced. They have sponsored useful allergy education, some of it provided by Dr. Paul Ehrlich. Marketing to adults through a tie-in with NASCAR gives the company a chance to highlight that it is a non-sedating antihistamine, although whether I’d take a chance using it while driving 200 miles per hour is a choice I will never have to make. (It certainly makes more sense than combining a hangover remedy like Alka-Seltzer with a sedating antihistamine.)
But kids are different. For this movie campaign, Claritin was joined by Airheads candy, Blue Bunny ice cream, Dole bananas, General Mills, Jell-O, and McDonalds. Used as directed, which is to say when they are suffering from allergies, Children’s Claritin is better for kids than any of those treats except maybe bananas and certain cereals, but in company like that the line between little purple pills and little purple candies may become blurred. The fact remains: Claratin is medicine. Popping pills like candy is supposed to be a bad thing.
(This is the second egregious marketing error in recent weeks by a major vendor in the allergy marketplace, the first being an ill-advised commercial by Mylan for EpiPen, which sent the message that a severely food-allergic child could go to any birthday party as long as Mom was packing Epi. It left out the fact that any use of Epi constitutes a medical emergency, and even when it does its work, a trip to the emergency room is standard procedure. Kudos to our friends at the Arizona Food Allergy Alliance who jumped on Mylan early and often for that.)