This Crazy, Entertaining Skincare Ad Throws Everything at You to See What Will Stick

Manic monologue meets 9-day acne stunt

Adult acne is no fun, but it can be hilarious, especially when tracked around the clock for nine solid days via a head-mounted camera. That's the stunt at the heart of the first major ad campaign for Nerd Skincare, a San Francisco startup founded by biomedical engineer Evelyn Chen.

But the young CEO isn't the only star of this five-minute video. (She happens to play a great straight man, though, and she infected her own face with bacteria as an on-air product demo.) Actress and comedian Laura Clery takes the role often played by celebrities in zit-cream testimonials and runs with it, showing the dramatic fallout of pimple breakouts.

Hint: You won't get laid, you won't land that job, and you might kill your boyfriend.

The campaign comes from Chamber.Media with a big hat-tip to the Harmon Brothers, fellow Utah-based ad mavens who have developed long-form viral videos for brands like Squatty Potty, Chatbooks and FiberFix. Since relocating from Los Angeles to Provo, Chamber.media execs have enlisted the Harmons as guides in this particular form of advertising that mixes infomercial with story-centric entertainment.

"We've always been focused on shares and sales, and we've taken a lot of cues from the Harmons," Travis Chambers, the company's chief media hacker, tells AdFreak. "For Nerd, this is a direct marketing piece that uses an age-old way of selling, but with a really endearing, approachable spokesperson."

Chamber.Media is striving for "an SNL standard" in the Nerd Skincare video. That's Chambers, a veteran of CP+B L.A., playing the boyfriend who falls out the window, by the way. Clery, also a well-known Facebook influencer, wrote the script, giving it what Chambers calls "something unexpected." And working with a new brand meant fewer layers of approval. "When you only have a couple of decision makers, you can do something edgy and different, not like a traditional TV spot," he says.

The video launches today on social media, with paid ads kicking in later, says Chambers, whose company is responsible for a NordicTrack ad ("World's Largest Treadmill Dance") that snagged 4 million views on YouTube alone and propelled more than $5 million in sales.

For the Nerd Skincare video, mostly shot on sets in Salt Lake City, the team reprogrammed a GoPro so it could record for nine days, while Chen wore the "helmet cam" consistently, even in the shower. Chen "is a scientist, not an actor," but wanted to be part of the pitch, Chambers said.

She'd also given the directive of "dark humor" for the video, leading to the job interview from hell, the pervy dude playing "bad bacteria," and the pimply game of Whack-A-Mole. There's also some ugly crying and crazed affirmations for what Chambers hopes is a "real and authentic skincare ad like no one's ever seen before."

CREDITS
Client: Nerd Skincare
Agency: Chamber.Media
Director, Executive Producer: Travis Chambers
Creative Directors: Travis Chambers, Stefan van de Graaff
Producer: Stefan van de Graaff
Director of Photography: Jared Fadel
Writer, Lead Actor: Laura Clery
VFX & Editing: Alan Seawright
Ad Ops Director: Evan Vilos
Art Director: Hazel Wong
Assistant Director: Bob Conder
Gaffer: Carl Gundestrup
Set Design: Dillon Ellefson
FX: Wray Featherstone
Hair & Make-up: Vanae Morris
Wardrobe: Tamara Haller
1st AC: Andy Baker
Audio Tech: Christian Burton
Motion Graphics: John Smith