Direct-response giant Guthy-Renker is recharging its Proactiv Solution acne franchise with three new celebrity spokeswomen and an updated approach to formulation, packaging and marketing.
This story first appeared in the January 13, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Pop music stars Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne, and actress Jenna Fischer are following in the footsteps of Vanessa Williams and Jessica Simpson in touting Proactiv as an acne remedy. Spots featuring Perry, Lavigne and Fischer will launch this month, and Guthy-Renker is spending some $200 million on ad time worldwide for Proactiv this year, primarily on one-minute, two-minute and 30-second commercials.
Ben Van de Bunt, co-chief executive officer of Palm Desert, Calif.-based Guthy-Renker, declined to discuss the details of the contracts for Perry, Lavigne and Fischer, who join Mandy Moore, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Sheckler and Julianne Hough in Proactiv’s celebrity lineup. “We are paying people consistently with what we have done in the past, which is millions of dollars,” he said, adding the contracts are “at least one year with extensions.”
Van de Bunt explained it takes star power, compelling narratives about skin issues and genuine connections to Proactiv for celebrities to resonate with potential users. Music stars such as Perry and Lavigne appeal to Guthy-Renker due to their global reach.
Proactiv is at a crossroads in its history. For most of its 15 years, Guthy-Renker’s infomercial muscle helped the brand’s products — developed by dermatologists Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields — have few roadblocks in their path to becoming the world’s best-selling acne system. But the acne market has become crowded of late with brands taking shots at Proactiv. (In the last two years, for example, Johnson & Johnson’s Clean & Clear and Neutrogena Skin iD hit the airwaves with direct response ads.)
“In the face of that competition, we needed to elevate the brand and reposition ourselves,” said Van de Bunt. “We are definitely reintroducing big celebrities again, and we are coupling it with a slight difference in the conversation where we view acne as the enemy, and the best way to fight acne is with Proactiv.”
Proactiv’s packaging has been modified to give a “clearer picture of the brand on the bottles,” according to Van de Bunt. Inside the bottles, Proactiv’s key ingredient — benzoyl peroxide — has been refined into microcrystals designed to quickly enter pores. Select Proactiv products will also be recommended for different skin types, and Proactiv skin care advisers will offer 24-hour product guidance starting Jan. 29.
Van de Bunt projected Proactiv would register double-digit global growth this year. He said it experienced flat growth domestically in 2009, but saw an uptick abroad. Proactiv’s sales were around $830 million last year, accounting for more than half of Guthy-Renker’s estimated $1.5 billion in 2009 revenues. Proactiv is carried in 58 countries, and about 40 percent of its sales are from outside of the U.S.