PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Sponge comeback proves press worthy

NEW YORK: You know you've got a good story when your client's product is getting mentioned in practically every news outlet in the country, and you never even sent out a press release.

NEW YORK: You know you've got a good story when your client's product is getting mentioned in practically every news outlet in the country, and you never even sent out a press release.

Today Sponge - the contraceptive immortalized by the Seinfeld episode in which Elaine Benes debates whether her boyfriends are "spongeworthy" - went back on the market this month via Canadian websites. In 1995, the contraceptive option that many women were wedded to for its ease of use and absence of hormones was pulled from shelves after problems were discovered at the product's manufacturing plant. The FDA made clear that the safety and effectiveness of the Sponge was never in question, but Wyeth decided the cost of upgrading its facility was not worth the profits it was making from the product, so it simply stopped selling it. Three years later, Allendale Pharmaceuticals - a start-up company at the time - bought the rights to the Sponge and hired PR firm Williams Whittle and Rothstein (WWR) to help prep the market for its relaunch. The Sponge is awaiting FDA approval, and the company is still in its quiet period. You'd certainly never know it considering how much buzz has been swarming around the product's return. After the news hit the AP wire on March 5, within days, every major network had picked it up. Despite Allendale's CEO, Gene Detroyer, having to decline most interviews because of imposed FDA regulations, stories ran on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox News, WB, and CNN. Print articles also appeared in USA Today and The New York Times, in addition to coverage on virtually every news website the day the story broke. It is open for debate whether Today Sponge's prevalence should be taken as a commentary on the female market's enthusiasm for the return of a great contraceptive, or the ever-lasting power of Seinfeld. (Today has even called its newsletter Spongeworthy.) But as far as Allendale and WWR are concerned, it's a score either way.

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