Thursday, July 19, 2007

What do Abe Lincoln, a beaver, and a bong have in common?

If you guessed negative Return on Investment, you win!

Pfizer, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, is about to join the League of Undistinguished DTC Advertisers (LUDA) upon the launch of its the much-anticipated Exubera DTC campaign.

According to a recent post on Phamalot, at least one Wall Street Analyst has "lowered [his] Exubera estimates dramatically for 2007-2010; we now forecast 2007 worldwide sales of $20 million, down from $296 million and peak sales in 2012 of $326 million from $1.4 billion."
"We think [the DTC campaign] may produce an uptick, but Exubera sales are on a whole different trajectory than we and the Street had been modeling."

"Yes," says Pharmalot author Ed Silverman, "that would appear to be straight down. And the cost of a few TV ads will easily eclipse recent sales. What a promotional bargain." (See "Pfizer's Exubera: $4M In Sales! Bongs Away!")
Given this, Pfizer will likely join ranks with Takeda Pharmaceuticals whose Rozerem ads have long languished in negative ROI territory (see "Rozerem Ad Spending Exceeds Sales!").

But could Exubera ads pull Pfizer out if its Exubera hole by leading to more than a mere uptick in sales? Not unless those ads take a path different than that of Rozerem's.

"Pharmaceutical companies are wasting millions of dollars on ads that aren't delivering their products' key messages!," says Lee Weinblatt, founder and CEO of PreTesting.

"And it has nothing to do with FDA rules. In the good old days, only pharmaceutical specialist agencies handled medical ads, most of which were directed at physicians. Now they are using the matrix that packaged goods ads use to measure effectiveness such as acceptance and so on. This is leading pharmaceutical DTC advertisers down the wrong path," according to Weinblatt.

Weinblatt cites the Rozerem ads as models of the "wrong path." "Talking about dreams means nothing to older people who cannot sleep through the night," says Weinblatt.

Podcast: Your DTC Ads Stink!
I will be interviewing Weinblatt in an upcoming Pharma Marketing Talk podcast on July 25, 2007. See "Your DTC Ads Stink! " You can listen live or you can listen to the audio archive afterward. Either way, I am sure you will enjoy Lee's comments -- he's quite outspoken about the current state of DTC advertising and he has tested the ads and commercials of over 300 of the world’s largest companies.


  1. Anonymous1:34 PM

    Anyone who believes Rozerem's campaign was the result of any serious pre-testing with consumers is delusional. Whatever metrics it was evaluated on had nothing to do with effectiveness measures. The company (or, more accurately, its agency Abelson-Taylor) clearly wanted to stand out from the competition and favored "difference" over "intent to speak with a physician about Rozerem". Pure speculation but if someone from AT reads this I bet in their heart they will confirm! You can't knock DTC ad pre-testing with consumers as a general problem, it's not the fault of the researchers when their clients draw the wrong conclusions from the data.

  2. Anonymous6:15 PM

    John, I've been following your comments on Rozerem since back before I'd ever seen any of the ads myself. (I'm more of a morning person.) HOwever, having read all of your comments, and after finally seeing those Rozerem TV ads, AND even after being exposed to multiple Rozerem-branded print impressions, I STILL have no idea what message they're trying to communicate to me. Granted, I don't have trouble falling asleep either, but there is a segment of the population that truly enjoys a clever - whatever, regardless of specific intent - and I can't even get that kind of satisfaction out of the time I've spent with the beaver and his buddies. BTW, what's with the guy in the deep-sea diving suit, anyway?


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