Product PR: Zila gets healthy boost for Ester-C by going to town

Zila Nutraceuticals hired Soapbox PR to craft a campaign to draw attention to a 20-year-old vitamin product - Ester-C.

Zila Nutraceuticals hired Soapbox PR to craft a campaign to draw attention to a 20-year-old vitamin product - Ester-C.

Because there was no hard news to tie the effort to, "attaining media attention meant we had to creatively repackage existing news on the vitamin," explains Soapbox principal Dana Weidaw.

Playing off an old Slim-Fast campaign, her team crafted an idea to put an entire town on Ester-C and document the health benefits. The big-idea plan was unusual enough that it captured both national and local media attention. It also helped Zila reinforce its mission to "protect people's health" to both consumers, employees, and other stakeholders, says Zila VP and GM Ron Fugate.

"There were basically three different areas of strength for the campaign," he adds. "We had awareness and reach objectives for our brand, and we were really looking for a fresh initiative, an engaging hook to gain some attention for Ester-C. We also wanted to reinforce the brand essence."


"We wanted to create something kind of fun around it," says Weidaw of the campaign. Her team began by finding the best town to act as a trial for the vitamin. After weeding through a multitude of towns with "cold" names, they decided to take the positive route instead and found Mount Healthy, OH, a tiny city near Cincinnati with an old-time feel, including a Main Street.

The team then spent weeks convincing key town members to take part in the project. They wooed the citizen of the year ( a woman with a great deal of pull in the town) and the town leaders by pledging to fund a scholarship fund for the local high school. After much work, more than 700 Mount Healthy residents agreed to try Ester-C for 50 days.


After signing up trial participants (in the middle of a cold spell that had many local schools shut down), the PR team sat back and waited to see what would happen.

"The project culminated in a celebration during Mount Healthy's Heritage Days Festival, an annual event that draws residents from several surrounding communities," says Weidaw. "The survey results were tallied and announced - Mount Healthy was indeed healthier."


"The results were incredible," says Weidaw. A good portion of study participants reported positive results, including fewer coughs or colds, feeling more vital, and increased levels of energy.

"From that perspective, we really did feel that we made a difference," says Weidaw. "Just the overall energy that everyone reported feeling was great. They were able to talk about how the teachers and the day-care center leaders had more energy."

Equally as important, the media was interested in the Mount Healthy story. Using a VNR, wire releases, and targeted pitching, Weidaw and her team won 19 broadcast placements, 180 newspaper stories, and coverage in 17 magazines, including key targets such as Health magazine and Fox News Channel. Weidaw says the campaign reached an audience of 12,985,858 (raw numbers with no inflation) and had an ad value of $626,762.

Fugate adds that footage from the campaign was also used at shareholder meetings and for employees, giving the campaign added legs.


Zila was so impressed with Soapbox's results that it has decided to extend and expand the campaign for at least two years. Soapbox is now planning to place other communities and groups on Ester-C, such as groups of firefighters or those working at the Empire State Building.

"We are building upon our success with Mount Healthy to take Ester-C beyond Middle America and bring it to the masses," says Weidaw.

PR team: Soapbox PR (Scottsdale, AZ) and Zila Nutraceuticals (Prescott, AZ)

Campaign: Ester-C Made Mount Healthy Healthier

Time frame: February 2002 to February 2003

Budget: $80,000

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