Skin treatment goes beyond the cosmetic

Isolagen, the US bio-technology firm, first developed a skin-healing treatment for wrinkles in 1995.

Client Isolagen – self-rejuvenation skin treatment
PR team Health and Beauty, Halpern
Campaign Building Better Skin
Timescale July-August 2005
Budget Less than £20,000

The process mimics the body's own function of sending fibroblast cells – which rush to the scene of a wound to start the healing process – by taking a tiny fragment of skin, usually from behind the ear, and cutting it in order to activate these cells. They are fed with salts, sugars, proteins and antibiotics to increase their number.

Until recently these cells were simply injected back into the body to treat fine lines. However, recent research showed that besides minor cosmetic applications, the process could also have important medical uses, including complete skin regeneration for people suffering from burns injuries. Because Isolagen does not have an in-house PR team Halpern was apppointed to publicise this new area of treatment.

To educate consumers about Isolagen's wider applications, beyond fine lines and wrinkles into burns treatment. And to build awareness of how Isolagen works and what it can do.

Strategy and plan
With no obvious news hook, Halpern knew that powerful case studies of the treatment being used in real burns cases had to be called upon for the story to generate coverage.

Among others, it recounted the story of Katie Dowling from Manchester, who suffered 80 per cent burns in a domestic fire after falling asleep while candles were still alight (see above).

Halpern also realised that it depended on credible medical experts for journalists to call upon. These included Dr Mark Lewis, a skin regeneration expert from University College London. While a non-specific news hook campaign was being rolled out, the 7 July bombings took place in London and Isolagen offered free treatment to all victims. Halpern decided that this should be communicated as an extension of the PR message, creating more interest in both Isolagen and the burns application. Halpern then used the fine lines and wrinkles angle to secure additional features, bringing it up to date with new case studies. While Isolagen has some medical experts on retainers, all those interviewed for this campaign were independent.

Measurement and evaluation
Over a four week period, Isolagen-based features appeared in four of the leading nationals (Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Daily Mail and The Times), on three TV news programmes (Channel 5 News, BBC London News and Sky News) and two consumer magazines (Now and Grazia).

The news agenda gave the campaign a real boost. The additional hook of the London bombings took the story into the Daily Mail as a full-page feature (which also advised of additional Isolagen applications). The Daily Express also ran a full page as the story was
refreshed with a case study from the Oklahoma bombings. Total PR value of the campaign was £783,682, with a total print circulation of 5,816,690. This delivered an ROI of 65:1 with TV coverage still to be evaluated.

Lesley Thomas, a feature writer for The Daily Telegraph recalls that she covered Isolagen because she found 'a great human story about a badly burned woman who triumphed over tragic circumstances. I'd written about it before, but only for it's anti-ageing properties. So it was good that another really positive use for it had been found.'
Steve Smethurst

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