Yesterday IAG Research released “the latest syndicated data for the most memorable new prescription drug ads launched during the 2006/2007 TV season.”

The results were not surprising — some of the drug ads that many of us love to hate topped the list for “memorability.” What’s galling is that even those of us who hate them have been affected by them.

Not surprisingly, a number of winners of PAL’s coveted Bitter Pill Awards were among those most recalled. Our Bitter Pill Awards particularly seek to call attention to those drug ads that elevate image over substance, or that overpromote expensive brand-name drugs that most people don’t need. Among those deemed most memorable were Lunesta (see its While You Were Sleeping Award here), Lipitor (Got Cholesterol? Award here), Crestor (ditto)and Cialis (Performance Anxiety Award here)

IAG’s press release says:

Whether it is a moth, a talking bee or a dead president and beaver, this season’s ranking of the most memorable new ads is dense with unique icons that have become the cornerstone for successful campaign development in this industry. Icons have taken the shape of human and animal figures as well as symbols such as Vytorin’s “food and family” split screen comparison or Cialis “outdoor tubs”.

“The fact that Lunesta along with other prescription brands including Nasonex, Rozerem and Vytorin remain at the top is a testament to strong campaign development that continues to deliver seamless creative extensions that effectively break-through the clutter and reinforce the brand identity synonymous with the icon present in the ads,” said Ms. Fariba Zamaniyan, Sr. Vice President of IAG Research’s Pharmaceutical Practice.

In other words, the key is to find an eye-catching image that “reinforce[s] the brand identity.” What about whether the drug is effective, or what the side effects are, or how it compares to other treatments? Is this information what constitutes the “clutter?”

IAG measured memorability this way:

The Recall Score is the percentage of TV who can recall within 24 hours the ad and the brand they were exposed to during the normal course of viewing TV. These scores are then indexed against the mean score for all new ads during the period (Recall Index). 100 equals average.”

Noticeably absent is anything about whether the viewers could recall anything important about the drug after 24 hours — like the risks and side effects, and who should not take the drug. It’s safe to say that while people probably remember the Lunesta luna moth, they probably don’t remember “In rare cases, severe allergic reactions can occur. Most sleep medicines carry some risk of dependency. Do not use sleep medicines for extended periods without first talking to your doctor. Side effects may include unpleasant taste, headache, drowsiness and dizziness.”

Here’s the list for most recalled ads, courtesy of IAG:

Rank Brand Company Ad Description Recall Index
1 Lunesta Sepracor 7-Night Challenge; luna moth flies over bridge and water and into people’s homes/tents. (:60) 157
2 Lunesta Sepracor 7-Night Challenge; luna moth flies over a lake into couple’s home, then onto woman’s pillow. (:60) 155
3 Zyrtec Pfizer Story #43; clothes falls on woman and she sneezes. (:45) 140
4 Nasonex Schering-Plough Animated bee talks about prevention of nasal allergy symptoms while buzzing next to Nasonex bottle. (:30) 138
5 Rozerem Takeda Abraham Lincoln, talking beaver, man in suit and man in diving suit at a bus stop; your dreams miss you. (:60) 136

Lipitor Pfizer Dr. Robert Jarvik in white lab coat discusses risk of heart disease and stroke caused by high cholesterol. (:60) 126
Crestor AstraZeneca Man at fish market near ocean whose cholesterol is out of wack; his body splits into various sections. (:60) 126
Vytorin Merck/Schering-Plough Plates of food shown next to shots of relatives such as Grandpa Bow and bowtie pasta. (:60) 126

Valtrex GlaxoSmithKline Couple talks about the risks of contracting herpes; 70% of people affected got it from their partner. (:60) 124
Cialis Eli Lilly Couples in various romantic places including laying in front of fireplace, in restaurant, in rowboat and laying on hammock. (:60) 124

Gardasil Merck Young women including a cowgirl, colorguard, gymnast and softball player say they want to be “One Less” (:60) 120
Caduet Pfizer Woman in red vest walks along a beach; splits into two and says she has high blood pressure & cholesterol. (:60) 120

Hat tip: The irrepressible Pharmalot