Monday, January 21, 2008

Sleep Aid Drug Print Ad Triptych

I found the following 3 full-page ads for sleep medications in the January 28 issue of Time Magazine (click for an enlarged view):

I think I arranged these in the order of market share in the US from left (highest) to right (lowest): Ambien CR, Lunesta, and Rozerem. I posted the following pie chart back in June (see "Rozerem DTC Ads: New Paradigm or Paradox?"). I doubt much has changed.

Let's play the Sesame Street game "What's Different, What's the Same" and see if there is any connection with how well these drugs are doing. Maybe the "kids" at Abelson-Taylor should also play this game.

I notice that both the Ambien CR and Lunesta ads prominently feature someone enjoying a nice snooze or night's sleep and they look happy. The Rozerem ad, on the other hand, does not have any image showing the main benefit of a sleep aid medication. It sticks with Abe and the beaver, a theme that by any standard is wearing thin.

The Ambien CR and Lunesta text tag lines enforce the same message conveyed by the images. The tag line of the Rozerem ad, however, is not synergistic in any way with the image. It does at least try to tell us what Rozerem's main competitive claim is: you won't get "hooked."

"Hooked" is a very strong word that conjures up images of crack addicts. But this is toned down somewhat by the phrase "Ask your doctor about the only prescription sleep aid that shows no potential for abuse or dependence in clinical trials." "Abuse" is another drug addict word, but I'll let that slide.

The Ambien CR and Lunesta ads both say something about "dependency" in the small print: "It's non-narcotic; however, like most sleep medicines, it has some risk of dependency" (Ambien CR) and "Most sleep medicines carry some risk of dependency" (Lunesta).

The Ambien and Lunesta ads kind of shrug off the dependency side effect and at the same time paint "most" sleep medicines (read between the lines "Rozerem included") in the same category.

At least the Rozerem ad is focusing on what distinguishes it from its competition. That's good. However, by sticking with Abe and the beaver and NOT showing a sleep benefit--ie, someone enjoying a night's sleep--it is not effectively competing with Ambien CR and Lunesta. Maybe that's why it is the Rudy Giuliani of sleep medications--a distant third.

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