Direct to Consumer: A Dream Campaign - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Direct to Consumer: A Dream Campaign
Takeda's Rozerem ads aren't just fun. They're a new paradigm for insomnia treatment.


Pharmaceutical Executive


Although Rozerem has been slow to recoup ad costs, Benecchi says that drug sales are on the rise as the campaign rolls on. Last year, the drug had $76.2 million in sales, up from $13.3 million in 2005 (July through December), according to IMS Health. For the first quarter of 2007, the drug has earned $28.1 million, outpacing Sonata in the total sleep aid category, but far below what Lunesta ($181 million) or Ambien ($653 million) brought in during the same time period.

"The ad is causing a ton of buzz but very little sales," explains Pharma Marketing News editor John Mack. Mack thinks the company should have spent more time and money informing consumers of the drug's MOA and the fact that it is a nonaddictive sleep aid. "I've been waiting for the next phase of this campaign for a long time, but so far all I see is Abe and a beaver," Mack says. "While the company is doing a slow buildup, the sales are doing a slow burn."

Benecchi claims that the slow build was the plan all along. The first television spot was intended to be thought provoking without drawing focus to the product. "It wasn't an ad that gave consumers all of the messaging at once," Benecchi says. "We wanted to draw them in with this ad, get them invested in the characters, and make them curious." The television spot stirred up some buzz, but it also got people questioning Takeda's strategy.

"I've never heard of such a thing in pharmaceutical marketing," Mack says. "Usually, a drug has a very short life span to break into the market, considering they have a limited patent life and very heavy competition."

Since the first spot premiered, Takeda has compounded its messaging with each consecutive ad. "We've seen a remarkable jump in brand awareness and brand linkage—characters, tagline, concept—all to Rozerem's name," Benecchi says. "It's really grown organically over the course of the last year."

Success Through Integration

In the last year, the Rozerem campaign has become a case study in how to make an attention-grabbing DTC ad. According to Phillip Sawyer of Starch Communications, a custom-research company that gauges the stopping power of DTC ads, readership of the Rozerem print campaign is "stratospheric."

"Readers really got involved with the print ads once they were familiar with the television campaign," Sawyer says. "My belief is that if the TV campaign had not gone out, the print ads wouldn't have done anywhere near as well."

On a scale with an average score of 100, the most recent Rozerem print spot scored above average in "noted" (103), "associated" (102), "read some" (108), and "read most" (135). By way of comparison, the first ad of the campaign scored low: "noted" (84), "associated" (72), "read some" (58), "read most" (71). "This campaign took a while to get a hold, but once the television ad became established, the print started to work with it," says Sawyer. "This is a perfect example of the synergistic effect of TV and print ads working together."

Fun or Funny?

Many in the industry don't like the ad because they feel that humor doesn't have a place in pharma. During the recent DTC Perspectives conference in Washington, DC, marketers liberally made snide (but mostly off-the-record) comments about the campaign. Is this just a case of beaver envy?

"Prescription medication is a serious business," says Mel Sokotch, author of Shortcuts to the Obvious. "We are talking about drugs that have serious side effects, and they should be treated with respect. Abe and a muskrat are not in line with what this industry is about."


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