CAMPAIGNS: Acne medication sways teenagers to see the doctor

PR Team: Galderma (Dallas), Nelson Communications (New York), and MS&L (New York) Campaign: "See the Derm...Lose the Zits" Time Frame: June 2003-ongoing Budget: $250,000-$500,000

PR Team: Galderma (Dallas), Nelson Communications (New York), and MS&L (New York) Campaign: "See the Derm...Lose the Zits" Time Frame: June 2003-ongoing Budget: $250,000-$500,000

Should I stop eating chocolate, or do I just need to wash my face more? To the pubescent teenager conscious of acne, these conundrums can rack the brain for hours. Aware of the confusion that acne presents, Galderma, which produces the prescription acne product Differin, wanted to provide some answers. On top of that, sales of Differin were lagging, and Galderma needed to convince teenagers - reluctant to visit dermatologists - to bypass over-the-counter products. Even more daunting of a task was convincing parents who don't believe that acne is a problem. Galderma enlisted the expertise of Nelson Communications (NCI) and MS&L, both part of the Publicis Healthcare Group. The team developed "See the Derm... Lose the Zits," a non-branded campaign whose primary objective was to educate. "What we're selling is information," says Steve Hamburg, chief creative officer at NCI. Strategy Driven by research conducted with the help of, a popular teen website, NCI initially discovered a variety of misconceptions held about acne by both teenagers and parents. "There is amazing misinformation out there," says Rick Schwausch, senior product manager at Galderma. "We wanted to provide relevant information to get them to seek the assistance of professional dermatologists." Tactics The campaign incorporated PR and DTC advertising efforts, both of which drove consumers to, where visitors could download information, find a dermatologist, and request a "Zit Kit," including coupons and scholarship opportunities. NCI led the advertising portion, while MS&L spearheaded the PR campaign. MS&L chose Carmen Rasmussen, a finalist on the show American Idol, as a spokesperson. "Carmen had some challenges with acne as the show was going on, and we wanted a celebrity that was current and could connect with teens," says Mike Echter, SVP at MS&L. On August 21, a web video aired on and - another popular teen site - in which Rasmussen discussed her personal battle with acne. Rasmussen has since done a string of interviews, from television spots on Inside Edition to nationally syndicated radio segments including Daybreak America on USA Radio Network. In addition, Dr. John Koo, a prominent dermatologist and psychiatrist, contributed to the campaign by discussing the psychosocial impact of acne problems, says Schwausch. All of these efforts were supported by advertising, particularly 60-second commercials that broke in June and appeared on cable stations such as MTV and Comedy Central. A fresh example of advertising and PR joining forces, "it's a very well-integrated campaign on multiple levels," says Echter. Results The campaign was the most successful ever for Galderma's acne products, says Schwausch, with a response rate triple the amount of any previous effort. Rasmussen's video, which is archived on, has achieved close to five million impressions. Despite the nonbranded promotion, the effort has had visible results for Differin, with over 475,000 visitors to the website. In addition, there were over 120,000 requests for Zit Kits. "The response has blown us away," says Schwausch. "We thought 25,000 for the first month would do it." Also, activity for prescriptions has increased, but because of a four- to six-week lag period in getting a dermatologist appointment, the results aren't available yet, says Steve Spittel, EVP and director of marketing at NCI. Future Efforts are ongoing, with media interviews of Dr. Koo and Rasmussen still pending. Also, reminders continue to be sent out on a timely basis to potential Differin users. In all, the campaign's approach is likely to evolve, says Spittel. "We are learning as we go along, developing a more segmented campaign," he says.

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