Ad of the Day: Clearasil Admits It Doesn’t Get Teens at All in Hilarious Droga5 Ads

But it does understand their acne

What on earth does Clearasil know about teenagers from inside its corporate offices in Parsippany, N.J.? Basically nothing, except how to make anti-acne products for them, the company admits in 10 comical new ads from Droga5—in which the brand's employees are the lame old people pathetically out of touch with youth culture.

A lot of the humor in the 60-second launch spot below comes from the voiceover, which introduces things like pizza, skateboarding and cars, hoping teen viewers will like them.

"We work at Clearasil, and we're just trying to tell you that Clearasil Ultra works fast," the friendly but bemused-sounding female voice says. "But we don't know how to do that. Because we don't really know teens. We only know teen acne. So, we're just going to guess what you guys like. A lot of times. So you're into this."

Check out the launch spot here:

Droga5 started working for the RB brand last summer, rolling out comic ads under the tagline "Let's be clear." This new work keeps that line, which is now followed by, "We know your acne. We just don't know you."

Droga5 came to this year's work knowing the only thing that would feel genuine to teens is the truth—and that truth is that Clearasil doesn't know how to act cool around teens at all.

"The campaign builds from a real-life experience with a meme gone wrong," says Droga5 group creative director Tim Gordon. "Many, many scathing comments from teens later, including a very specific one about being an out-of-touch marketing man in an office tower, we decided, 'They're right. We don't get teens.' And does anyone, really? Nope. Teens are intimidating little humans. No one knows what's going on inside their heads. Instead of pretending, we decided to just be honest and admit that we didn't."

Indeed, Clearasil posted a few memes last year that didn't go over too well.

"We found that teens really respect honesty," Gordon says. "These are people who are bombarded by companies declaring, 'We get totally get you!' even when they totally don't. Teens are tired of brands pretending to know them, and we're betting that they'll find it refreshing for a company to come out and say that they don't. While humor felt like the most natural way in, it was important for the humor to be rooted in a real truth. It also didn't hurt that being out of touch with what teens like comes natural to oldies like us."

While the launch spot tries to guess what teens are into, subsequent ads focus on one guess at a time—like hot tubs, extreme sports and birds being released into the wilderness.

See some of those ads here:

The irony, of course, is that by claiming not to know its target market at all, Clearasil proves it actually does know the target pretty well—or at least, how it prefers to be marketed to. 

The ads parody some marketing-to-teen tactics, but Gordon says it's broader than that.

"I love the earnestness of the ideas," he says. "We set out with a clear objective not to make fun of teens—only ourselves. Each spot is a genuine attempt to try and relate to teens, but an attempt not done terribly well. It's a voicemail that goes on too long, or your older aunt desperately trying to relate."

He adds: "We actually tried to stay away from skewering 'marketing tropes' in favor of trying to think about how our moms would try to relate. I'd say 'We know acne, we don't know teens' is less a direct commentary on advertising and more about having fun with every generation's attempt to relate to the one that comes next."

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