This year's drug ads? Forget about 'em

If you ask viewers, this year's drug advertising lacks oomph. A ranking of the most-recalled DTC ads shows that consumers are having a harder time remembering them than they did last year. Some of 2007's most striking ads are either absent from the airwaves now or severely curtailed, including the food-or-family Vytorin pitch, Rozerem's beaver-and-Abe Lincoln extravaganza, Nasonex's buzzing bee and Lipitor's Robert Jarvik campaign. What's left, according to Nielsen and AdWeek, are a bunch of commercials whose level of recall would never have put them in the top 10 last year.

The culprit? Controversy, for one thing; money, for another. Takeda cut spending on Rozerem ads by 77 percent as the drug struggled to gain market share. Vytorin ran into controversy when a study showed that the Zocor-and-Zetia combo was no better at keeping arteries open than Zocor alone, and Congressional pressure led Merck/Schering-Plough to pull the friends-and-family ad altogether. The Nasonex bee drew criticism for its potentially distracting behavior during the ad's safety messages. And Pfizer pulled the Lipitor campaign after Congress hammered Jarvik for repping a heart drug when he's not a practicing doctor.

The most recalled ads so far this year include spots for Pfizer's Lyrica and Warner Chilcott's Loestrin 24Fe, which don't have a long-established presence on the airwaves. And Nielsen says the current crop just isn't as creative as the old. That's a problem that could worsen, the ratings firm postulates, as controversy causes companies to approach DTC advertising more cautiously and conservatively.

- read the AdWeek article