Today at the 2nd Annual Pharmaceutical Sales & Marketing Executive Congress, David Lapinski, Associate Director, Commercial Analytics at Sepracor — the marketer of Lunesta — confirmed what I said last week: we will “less and less” of the luna moth. But he was not talking about see less of the moth flitting around in DTC ads. There will be less Lunesta DTC advertising overall!

The Luna moth, claimed Lapinski, increased the size of the sleep aid market, but Sepracor was NOT the sole beneficiary. The Sanofi-Aventis people sitting next to me at lunch afterward, verified this assessment by smiling broadly when I brought up the remarks of Lapinski. Sanofi-Aventis markets Ambien CR, Lunesta’s competitor.

“DTC,” said Lapinski, “does not sell the product. Awareness doesn’t generate sales.” He was imparting to us a lesson learned the hard way and emphasized the importance of the physician in generating sales. That prompted me to ask if Sepracor spent as much on physician marketing of Lunesta as it did on DTC marketing, or did it spend less or more?

The answer to that question could have settled the controversy I started last week when I estimated that the ROI of the total Lunesta marketing campaign was almost certainly negative or very poor (see “Pharma Marketing ROI: The Emperor Has No Clothes!“).

Alas, I did not get a straight answer. Mr. Lapinski instead quoted a Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) report that asserted that “DTC ads represent only 14 percent of pharmaceutical companies’ marketing budgets” (see “Beyond Advertising: The Pharmaceutical Industry’s Hidden Marketing Tactics“). Lapinski thought this piece of information would help minimize the importance of DTC in pharma’s overall marketing effort and therefore not be worthy of all the Congressional and consumer opposition it generated.

When I apply the 14% solution to the Lunesta marketing ROI analysis, I am afraid it does not help prove that Lunesta marketing demonstrated a positive ROI in 2007.

If the Lunesta DTC budget was 14% of the total marketing budget, then that would mean Lunesta in 2007 spent $243 million on DTC advertising (allowing for Bob Erhlich’s 40% discount from reported ad spend) and about $1.74 BILLION on ALL marketing. Compare that to the $600 million in sales and you can understand why we will be seeing less Lunesta DTC in 2008.

Whatever the ROI of Lunesta DTC, I got the impression from Lapinski that Sepracor is now a wee bit “DTC shy.” Sepracor, said Lapinski, will be getting into the allergy market, which is another strong DTC-driven market. But, he said, Sepracor will take a hard look at the benefits of DTC before initiating a campaign likely to benfit competitors as much or more than their own product.

While Lapinski was trying to convince us to accept the 14% estimate, Michael Woody, PhRMA’s Director of Federal Affairs, claimed that the drug industry spent a mere $11.4 billion on all marketing (DTC AND physician detailing) last year. If you believe both these estimates, you would conclude that pharma only spent about $1.6 billion on DTC advertising. This is pretty far off the $5 billion that is generally quoted by experts. That’s some discount!