TV viewers seem more immune to pitches for allergy medications this spring when compared to the year before, according to a new study from Nielsen IAG. Overall, recall among allergy sufferers aged 25-54 for all the ads on air from January through May this year was 10 points lower than during the same period a year ago.
That's not to say every ad in the category was unmemorable. An ad for Claritin featuring Nascar's Carl Edwards was judged slightly more memorable than last year's top ad for the category featuring the Nasonex bee. Still, the Claritin ad failed to motivate customers to consider Claritin to the same degree as the Nasonex ad.
Why didn't this year's ads leave a strong impression? They just weren't as good, said Fariba Zamaniyan, senior vice president at Nielsen IAG, Healthcare. "This collectively weaker performance suggests that the creative strength of the advertising is not as strong as it used to be" she said. "In these economic times especially, if you're going to advertise on TV it has to be memorable. In a high-clutter category like allergy, you can't afford to miss. Being average isn't good enough."
There were more advertisers overall this year (nine, up from seven a year ago) but fewer ads (20 this season, down from 24 a year ago). Ad spending for traditional media within the category from January to April declined 17 percent from a year ago, according to Nielsen Monitor Plus data. That's about in line with spending declines in other categories, Zamaniyan said. At the same time, allergy advertisers sought the efficiencies they perceived cable TV programming could provide. Nielsen said the allocation to cable ad spending during the January-April period increased 20 percent from a year ago.
The most-recalled ad this year among allergy sufferers aged 25-54 was Claritin's 15-second "Carl Edwards interview." No. 2 was Zyrtec's 30-second "bicycle" ad, which showed a woman taking her bicycle out of storage for a ride now that her allergy symptoms had abated. A year ago, the Nasonex "Bee next to a bottle" was No. 1, followed by Sudafed's "Teacher head balloon," which showed a woman's head blowing up like a balloon as her congestion increased.
Creative quality also is taking the blame for this year’s ads doing less to motivate allergy sufferers to seek remedies. Nielsen IAG found intent to ask the doctor about the prescription brand advertised was down 40 percent from a year ago. Purchase interest declined nearly 20 percent. "Weaker creative which limits the ads' potential to be recalled has ultimately resulted in lower call to action levels this season," Zamaniyan said. "Again, the number of ads on air is consistent vs. year ago so, we can't blame it on clutter - it's the creative." She discounted the notion that the down economy could be totally to blame. "It may be one of the factors," Zamaniyan said. "Advertisers and their agencies often blame the economy, but the takeaway here is that before the advertiser can influence behavior, it has to break through." As the number of brands advertising increased, she said, that becomes critical. "If the ad is not a unique execution that stands out from the rest and connects with the viewer, then the ability to drive purchase interest or doctor contact is suppressed no matter how recognizable the brand name is," she said.