MM&M reports that “The whimsical consumer campaign for Takeda’s insomnia drug Rozerem has generated lots of buzz, just not the kind of recognition that leads to new patient starts.”

That the Rozerem “whimsical” DTC emperor has no clothes has been apparent to many observers for a long time (see, for example, “Rozerem Ad Spending Exceeds Sales!“).

New Rozerem ads — “Catch the Bus” and “Off to Work” -— are said to feature stronger brand mentions. “Brand linkage metrics, consumer awareness numbers have all steadily progressed over the life of the product,” says Chris Benecchi, director of Rozerem marketing for Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America. “In the very beginning, you find yourself as being, in the mind of the consumer, ‘You’re the product…with Abe Lincoln and the beaver.’ Now ‘Rozerem’ is coming through much more strongly,” says Benecchi.

I am having a problem parsing all this marketing-speak. But it seems that Benecchi is relying on the wrong measure of DTC success according to Lee Weinblatt, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the PreTesting Company. I interviewed Lee in a recent Pharma Marketing Talk podcast.

“Recall by itself means very little to consumers,” says Weinblatt. “They can recall many products, but if you do not make it emotionally important to them — especially when you asking them to call up a doctor, make an appointment, pay a co-pay, and admit to having a problem — you are really going down the wrong path.”

The two new Rozerem ads do not seem to build any more of an emotional bond with consumers than the previous ads, unless you really like blue unicorns.

Ad spending for insomnia drugs lead the DTC ad spend pack: In 2006, Sepracor spent $316 million for Lunesta DTC advertising, Sanofi-Aventis spent about $180 million on Ambien and Ambien CR DTC, and Takeda spent about $110 million on Rozerem ads.

“We are promoting at a level that we feel is really the right spending point for us to go and have an effect,” said Benecchi.

“One has to wonder whether the firm is growing impatient with the promotional effort, whose ROI in terms of revenue has been lackluster,” reports MM&M. “Through June of this year, market share hovered at 3%, according to Verispan, compared to Lunesta’s 18%, and the 66% share owned by Ambien CR and Ambien. Datamonitor predicts Lunesta, Rozerem’s closest competitor, will cross the $1-billion sales threshold next year and increase its market share to 22%”

No matter what Takeda spends on Rozerem DTC advertising, it won’t increase Rozerem’s market share without making major changes to its DTC campaign. Ads featuring beavers on bus stops and blue unicorns in the office are merely “tweaks,” not real changes. The buzz is wearing thin. It’s time to do something entirely different.

As I said many times before, Takeda should “Fire These Guys” and disengage itself from agencies and marketing directors that measure DTC ROI in terms of “buzz” rather than new scrips written, IMHO.