TV ads for prescription drugs loosened up a bit in 2008 and exercised greater creativity despite intense scrutiny, The Nielsen Company found in a review of advertising recall rates for 2008.

Nielsen said 2007 recall rates were noticeably lower than in previous years as advertisers took a more conservative approach. For 2008, recall rates bounced back. A Cialis spot was the most-recalled TV drug ad of the year, followed closely by an ad for another Lilly product, Cymbalta.

“This past year, we’ve had some breakthrough advertising, as evidenced by Cialis and Cymbalta ads that really embody what makes for strong, memorable creative,” said Fariba Zamaniyan, SVP, healthcare at Nielsen. “They used unique copy that’s relevant to the targets they’re communicating with, and they’ve done so using means other than the traditional pharma approach to advertising.”

The most-recalled spot for Cialis features a couple whose intimacies are interrupted by a surprise visit from a college age daughter. Two other Cialis spots were among the nine ads that scored better than average in viewer recall for the year, according to Nielsen. Most of this year’s best-performing spots were, like the runner-up, a new execution in Lilly’s Depression Hurts series for Cymbalta, extensions of long-running campaigns, noted Zamaniyan.

“That shows you can continue to be memorable and effective and still fall within the guidelines put forth by FDA,” said Zamaniyan. “We’ve seen renewed faith that this category can be effective given the restrictions it must operate within. And this is coming from a year when advertisers were under the microscope, because you had Vytorin and Liptor and all that chaos that ensued at the beginning of the year.”

Nielsen measures for 24-hour recall with daily surveys of a 6,000-person panel. The data firm’s findings are an aggregate of responses to new drug ads that launched in 2008. The most-recalled were as follows:

1.    Lilly’s Cialis: “One moment we were feeling spontaneous, the next we were happily interrupted” (:60)
2.    Lilly’s Cymbalta: “Depression hurts,” woman in leather recliner, women on couches, couple at café table (:75)
3.    Warner Chilcott’s Loestrin 24 Fe: Two women at pharmacy counter (:60)
4.    Lilly’s Cialis: “All around the world, men with ED have taken 36-hour Cialis” (:60)
5.    BMS/Sanofi-Aventis’ Plavix: Man inspects anatomical model; “Another heart attack could be lurking” (:75)
6.    (tie) GlaxoSmithKline’s Boniva: Sally Field talks healthy bones (:60)
Brisol-Myers Squibb/Sanofi-Aventis’ Plavix: Hospital gurney follows man through city to a medical building (:60)
7.    (tie) Pfizer’s Detrol LA: Teacher gives homework assignment, runs to bathroom (:60)
Lilly’s Cialis: Couples in romantic places – fireplace, restaurant, rowboat, hammock (:60)