After several years of quiet among prescription sleep aids, Purdue Pharma has issued a wake up call to the category with an ad campaign featuring an adorably memorable anthropomorphic lightbulb.

Intermezzo was approved for a unique indication, middle-of-the-night insomnia, in November, 2011. Purdue, with partner Transcept, launched print and digital advertising for the brand a year later, and a 90-second TV ad went up in January. The spot, by AbelsonTaylor, is meant to drive sufferers to the brand website,, where they are invited to sign up for a CRM program and download a free trial coupon.

“We had a metric in mind for six months, and we’ve already exceeded that over an eight-week period,” said Jerry Risco, executive director, marketing for the brand.

“The messaging and the creative elements go hand in hand,” adds Risco. “We know there’s a group of people out there who can fall asleep on their own, but for some reason, they wake up in the middle of the night. It’s not an everyday occurrence, so why take something every day? But if you wake up in the middle of the night, have difficulty returning to sleep and have at least four hours left for sleep, Intermezzo might be an appropriate option.” 

The ads do not address FDA’s recent communication regarding risks of next-morning impairment for other, higher-dose sleep drugs. In its alert, issued, Jan. 10, the agency specifically exempted Intermezzo from the warning, noting that its low and gender-specific dosing falls well under recommended levels. Even if they wanted to, Purdue does not have comparative safety data to stake a claim on. All the same, it can’t hurt the brand’s chances in a crowded market heavily impacted by the 2007 genericization of Ambien. The only other brand advertising at present is Lunesta, for which Sunovion spent $47 million from October 2011 through September 2012, according to Nielsen data.

That’s more than the $29 million Purdue is spending on the Intermezzo launch—still an amount sufficient to buy the brand plenty of visibility.

TV ads for Intermezzo are running against late-night shows like Leno and Letterman, along with middle-of-the-night programming and prime-time cable. The company is supplementing its air war with print ads, in-office brochures and digital ads on Hulu. On the professional side, Purdue’s 525-strong analgesic sales force is detailing primary care docs and retail pharmacies, backed by a 90-person contract specialty sales force.