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Wyeth washes Denorex off highway sign

Updated: December 10, 2009 - 1:26 pm

Posted: July 7, 2002

The name change of Whitehall-Robins Healthcare to Wyeth Consumer Healthcare produced a big switch for the signs on the company's offices off Interstate 95 near the Diamond.Not only has the name on the signs changed from Whitehall-Robins to Wyeth, but the company has removed the giant blue and white band that promoted Wyeth products such as Solgar, Robitussin, Advil, Denorex, Dimetapp and Chap Stick.The sign, which could be seen by the millions of people who pass Wyeth's Richmond offices, was on the north side of the building, parallel to I-95.The blue band came down late last month. The company said that the sign will return, though Denorex will not be on the new sign, as Wyeth sold the brand. It will be replaced by the calcium supplement Caltrate.The sign won't be blue either. Instead, the company is opting for a more subdued white-on-gray scheme."The sign is going back - it won't be blue though," said Fran Sullivan, a spokesman for Wyeth Consumer Healthcare. "It'll match the building a little better."The new sign will be up in a few weeks, he said.That the blue band is gone is a good thing, said Virginia Commonwealth University graphic design history professor Philip Meggs.Meggs, who was the in-house art director at A.H. Robins in the 1960s, likened the sign to the motley but mandatory collection of logos usually seen on the bottom of an event sponsorship. The varied type faces and designs create a "cacophony.""It's a problem that you see with a lot of graphics," he said.The Whitehall-Robins blue-band sign was at least sort of toned-down, and used white logos on blue backgrounds, Meggs said.He gave an example he shares with students, in which he was at a four-star restaurant in Canada. There, he ordered a terrine of roast duck. He also ordered the vegetable of the day. The waiter refused to give it to him.The waiter told Meggs: "I'm sorry sir, it doesn't go."There is a solution for a company that wants to promote its different brands—use a unified look."I've seen this done tastefully, just putting their names in neutral type," Meggs said.Another solution can be seen just south of the James River on I-95 at Philip Morris, where pieces of the logos of Merit, Marlboro and Benson & Hedges cigarettes are united in a giant totem pole in front of the plant."I think the totem represents an effort by the designer to take fragments of these things to put together as a collage," Meggs said. "One senses that it is a collection."