Takeda's surreal ad campaign for the sleep aid Rozerem (ramelteon) has stirred up more controversy and intrigue than any DTC
ad in recent memory. With its unforgettable characters, sense of humor, and ability to balance creative with clinical information,
the ads have broken the traditional pharma advertising template. But most important, people are talking about the commercial
with the beaver.
Watch almost any prime-time television show and you're bound to come across the ad. It features a conversation between an
insomniac and his dreams about his lack of sleep. The tagline Your dreams miss you scrolls across the bottom of the screen as Abe Lincoln and a beaver chat with the patient over a game of chess. Print ads
show the duo in similar situations, and the brand's Web site offers interactive features, videos, and health information.
Takeda has even gone as far as branding the icons on subway cars, in elevators, and—best yet—on coffee mugs.
Does the campaign sound too over-the-top for a sleep aid? Perhaps, but Takeda is facing off against two blockbuster sleep
drugs—Ambien (zolpidem) and Lunesta (eszopiclone)—in a very crowded insomnia market.
Even worse, FDA approved Rozerem in July 2005, but Takeda postponed consumer advertising due to an industry-imposed, one-year
Takeda spent 2005 to 2006 bulking up its professional campaign with AbelsonTaylor at the helm. The ad team highlighted the
drug's unique method of action (MOA)—a selective melatonin receptor agonist that lacks the addictive quality of competing
sleep aids. "We wanted to give our sales representatives time to meet with healthcare professionals and educate them on the
importance of treating insomnia and how Rozerem works," explains Chris Benecchi, product director for Rozerem marketing. "We
wanted them well versed in how to prescribe it long before we ever started the consumer campaign."
Creating A Concept
For the DTC campaign, Takeda continued working with AbelsonTaylor (which was new to the DTC space) and added consumer-advertising
powerhouse Cramer-Krasselt to the team. "At the time, we were growing into our consumer franchise," explains Stephen Neale,
vice president, creative director at AbelsonTaylor. "I think Takeda wanted the best of both worlds—an experienced consumer
agency in CK and an agency that understands the FDA regulations in AbelsonTaylor."
The concept of the beaver and Abe Lincoln was conceived through conversations with groups of consumers about what they expect
from a DTC ad. The breakthrough moment was when the three teams started hearing consumers say that they miss being able to
"With this campaign, we shift the paradigm in the category from showing people sleeping to showing people not sleeping—if
you can't sleep, you can't dream, and your dreams miss you," says Ken Erke, vice president group creative director at Cramer-Krasselt.
But why a beaver? "This campaign isn't about a beaver or Abe, it's about an individual that can't sleep because of the daily
pressures in his life," Neale says. "This ad is the chance for the patient's dreams to sit down with him and tell him that
there is a product that can get him back into the dream world."
The Abraham Lincoln concept received an extraordinary response when it was tested. "We get a lot of people calling to say
they love the commercial, but also asking us to explain all the subtle nuances about the characters," Benecchi says. "If they
are willing to watch an ad that many times, it's giving the message an opportunity to seed with the public."
The Push for Sales
Grabbing people's attention with an innovative ad is one thing, but what about moving units? The estimated $100 million DTC
campaign cost more than Rozerem earned in sales in 2006. This year, it stands to make a profit, but nowhere near what the
competition is bringing in.