Thursday, October 26, 2006

Rozerem Ads Innovatively Ineffectual

At yesterday's "DTC in the New Era" conference organized by DTC Perspectives, Inc., Dale Taylor, President & CEO of AbelsonTaylor, Inc., which is the agency responsible for the Rozerem ads, made several revealing comments about the Rozerem DTC ads even though he coyly said that he was "not going to talk about the Rozerem campaign."

He confirmed what most of us already suspected: the ads were created to be "different," "to create buzz," and to make sure there was "a lot of talk about" the ads. Note that he didn't say the goal was to generate a lot of talk about Rozerem -- just about the ads.

Mission Accomplished, Dale!

Unfortunately, all the benefit goes to AbelsonTaylor, not to its client, which is Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

Dale gets to sit on the "Expert" Panel Discussion on Creative Innovations and his agency gets to win a POE award (see below) while his Takeda client must have been hanging his head in shame in the back recesses of the audience.

That's because Rozerem sales have not taken off and, in fact, are pretty darn flat. This was revealed by an amazing plot of new prescriptions for sleep aid drugs that was included in a presentation on AmbienCR made just before Dale's panel discussion on "innovation."

In that plot -- shown below -- are prescription volume sales of AmbienCR, Lunesta, and Rozerem over a 53-week period ending about mid-October, 2006. The data show growth relative to the starting point more than a year ago. Note that both AmbienCR and Lunesta both showed good growth, whereas Rozerem is a distant third and shows lackluster growth over this period.

Jean-Luc Pilon, Director of Consumer Marketing for Ambien at Sanofi-Aventis, used this chart to show that despite Lunesta's 2 to 1 spending over AmbienCR, its performance is stable to declining whereas AmbienCR is enjoying a rising trend despite "adverse media events" in which sleep binge eating and dangerous sleep driving stories were attributed to Ambien. Mr. Pilon credits the turnaround to S-A's "effective and responsible" PR campaign.

I hope he doesn't mind me using the chart for other purposes!

You can see that there is a slight "blip" in the Rozerem curve in the weeks following my July 18, 2006 post (see "Rozerem Ads Dis Lincoln, Show Beaver"). Of course, the blip could have been the result of the ad campaign itself and not my blog. But I posit that my post created substantial buzz about the ad, which helped Mr. Taylor's cause.

What is that blip worth in dollars? If we knew that, we could estimate if Takeda got its money worth from AbelsonTaylor's creative effort.

According to Wolters Kluwer, "from March through August 2006, Rozerem sales grew to $38 million, capturing a 1.9 percent market share" (as reported in "Surreal Dream Ads No Snoozer For Sleep Aid").

It's amazing how some publications can put a happy face on facts; calling a 1.9% share "no snoozer" is classic
jingo-pharma journalism! But I digress.

Comparing the height of the blip to the flat curve before the blip, I am willing to concede that Rozerem sales doubled over that period. Therefore, as a result of the Rozerem ad campaign and/or my blog post, Takeda earned an additional $19 million. [I'll take my 10% now.]

How much did it cost Takeda to make that $19 million? Sepracor/Lunesta is spending about $140 million per year or let's say about $50 for the 5 or 6-month period between March and August of 2006. Dare I say that Takeda/Rozerem spent an equivalent amount? That would mean it lost $31 million. Another way to look at it is return on investment. The AbelsonTaylor "innovative" campaign had a huge negative return on investment (my math is poor today, so I can't calculate what it is).

Even if Takeda spent half as much as I estimate, the ROI for the campaign is still in negative territory.

To be fair to AbelsonTaylor, maybe it took it's lead from Takeda rather than the other way around. "We knew our ads had to cut through the clutter," says Chris Benecchi, senior product manager of consumer strategies for Rozerem.

Unfortunately, cutting through the clutter with nothing comprehensible to say is a monumental waste of money and time.

POE Award Update
Did I mention that the Rozerem campaign won a POE ("Perspectives on Excellence") award in the most innovative campaign category? But it was only a Bronze. The Gold went to Vytorin, which I think deserved it. The Silver went to Merck's HPV Vaccine campaign. The other contenders were VESIcare (aka, pipe people ads) and AstraZeneca's Arimidex, which, to be frank, I never heard of before. I guess it was the dark horse in the race.

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