New Ads Explain the Science Behind Clearasil

Clearasil is dropping its humorous approach in ads, in favor of spots that espouse the “science” behind the skin care brand’s products.

A new campaign, called “The Science of Looking Awesome,” breaks today (Monday), and is part of a global effort by the Reckitt Benckiser-owned brand to pitch its products to a slightly older consumer group. Until now, Clearasil—best known for its acne-fighting properties—has been a favorite among teens. But according to Reckitt, 18- to 21-year-olds tend to use the products.

That’s why Reckitt decided to change the tone of its ads, said Sabrina Rodgers, Reckitt Benckier’s marketing director for personal care products. In a commercial that ran last year, titled “Lipstick,” a teenage boy asks a girl if he can “borrow her lipstick,” and kisses her on the lips. (Tagline: “May cause confidence.”) In contrast, the new spots, via Havas’ Euro RSCG in New York, show how Clearasil’s acne-fighting properties help clear up skin.

One spot, for instance, shows a young woman walking into a lab-like bathroom. “It’s 10 p.m. and Kate’s face is breaking out. So she uses new, Clearasil Overnight Lotion,” the voiceover says. The ad touts Clearasil’s latest product launch, which hit shelves in January. Print ads, likewise, build on various scientific claims. Both the print and TV ads use graphics, such as diagrams depicting chemical bonds. The campaign includes print buys in this month’s Glamour and Allure issues, as well as ads running in Fitness and Seventeen next month.

Clearasil, which spent $12 million on measured media in 2009, excluding online, per the Nielsen Co., is also a Reckitt power player. The latter refers to brands that contribute toward two-thirds of the company’s net revenues and 90 percent of its growth, per Reckitt. Clearasil is the no. 2 acne treatment brand worldwide.

Clearasil, however, is not the only skin care brand to adopt a more scientific positioning, said Mintel lead innovation and beauty analyst Krista Faron. Procter & Gamble’s Olay, too, has moved towards a more clinical approach, with launches like Pro-X and Olay Total Effects, which most recently came out in body wash form.

This isn’t to say that Clearasil is moving away from its core message of “confidence.” Michael Fanuele, chief strategy officer at Euro RSCG, said Clearasil is “emphasizing a different part of the story: What goes into the products we make as opposed to simply celebrating what it does.” The reason? Fanuele said: “It’s a fiercely competitive category, and at the end of the day, consumers want to choose something that works.”