The first point of discussion is the dermatological qualities of the product in question. In the volatility of the contemporary market, the efficiency of a product such as this is critical to maintain competitiveness. As a consequence, whether and how Proactiv makes a difference is a matter of utmost importance. The information that a consumer can find on the brand’s website serves to both advertise and enlist the dermatological qualities. As it was stated, Proactiv is based on benzoyl peroxide, a substance that curbs the bacteria causing acne and exfoliates the dead outer skin. In addition, the treatments use a range of other ingredients such as glycolic acid, as well as some organic components: herbs, omegas, etc. (“Drs. Rodan & Fields: Proactiv” n.pag.).
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Various products of this brand serve a variety of purposes. For instance, there is a treatment to help smooth out the skin after the acne is cured. It is assumed to adjust skin color and texture so that acne scars are not as visible. Other medications are suggested to moisturize and cleanse, remove makeup and dissolve blackheads. The most popular and the most advertised product, however, is Proactiv+. It is a kit consisting of three medications: the exfoliator, the pore cleanser, and the hydrator. There is a plethora of acne-curing qualities of Proactiv+ that are enlisted in the adverts, including everything mentioned above and more. The three-step kit is advertised as the unique and effective way of getting rid of the acne, improving the complexion, and generally making one’s skin flawless (“Drs. Rodan & Fields: Proactiv” n.pag.).
In contrast to the website, a range of independent dermatological reviews were conducted to assess the quality of the product, not to advertise. One such review analyses the ingredients used and asserts that the use of benzoyl peroxide is effective, although it can cause skin reactions in some cases (Burkhart and Burkhart 90). Also, the study suggested that Proactiv products could be improved by using amines together with benzoyl peroxide. Such project has been launched and the treatment even was patented, which by no means shattered the popularity of the Proactiv brand. The study, albeit independent, features a small reflection passage on the customer preferences based on the aggressive advertisement policies the brand uses (Burkhart and Burkhart 89).
Thus, dermatological qualities of the product are described in abundance on the website; the descriptions are mass-oriented, simplified, and somewhat lack specific details, instead assuring the consumers of the miraculous effects of the treatment. In turn, independent reviews are focused on the product contents and efficiency. They mark the ways the product can be improved but admit the advertising techniques signify the customers’ preferences.
Indeed, the advertisement techniques and tools used by Proactiv make up for a critical point of discussion. The role of advertising seems to be understood very well by the company’s PR agents. In a fluid, competitive environment that skin treatments industry is, the churn of customers is a thing to be prevented. It is true, to keep up the customer flow, Proactiv invests in the product development, but the best part of the investment goes to advertising. The techniques that the company uses are varied, and there is a multitude of articles and other sources discussing and criticizing these techniques. The article by Oltmanns is concerned with the ads Proactiv was using back in the 90s (par. 1). This article features an ad that runs as follows: “Got Acne? Just ask your boyfriend what to do. Oh, that’s right, you don’t have a boyfriend.” The blatancy with which the ad uses the audience’s self-consciousness to urge them to buy the product appears shocking; the author deems this ad strategy “cruel yet effective” nonetheless (Oltmanns par. 2).
The storm of critique has broken out after the company has started overusing celebrities for their advertisements. In relation to this, the notions of “eclipsing” and “overshadowing” have been explored in a range of studies. For instance, a study by Illicic and Webster discusses the concept of eclipsing in infomercials where famous people act as spokespersons educating the audience about the qualities of a product (1044). They state that the usage of pop stars is determined by the target audience and the images of pop stars such as Katy Perry and Justin Bieber are supposed to match the brand. What happens is that celebrities outshine the brand, which does not really motivate the consumers to purchase instantly (1044).
The idea of overshadowing is further examined by Tanaka, Nguyen, and Romaniuk; the authors dig deep into the psychology of advertising and describe the model that is used by companies such as Proactiv (69). The consumers learn to associate the brand with the particular celebrity used to advertise it and vice versa: the image of the pop star is associated with the brand. On the other hand, the research has not shown any significant differences between celebrity-advertised and non-advertised products (Tanaka, Nguyen, and Romaniuk 75).
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The sources reveal not only the strategies but also the points of critique; at that, the criticism seems justified since the strategies do not seem entirely fair. The belittlement of the consumers in the past, as well as the abuse of pop culture at present, are all too visible to the customers. When the strategy is visible, it is rejected on the subconscious level, which might be the reason for criticism. When the construct is seen, it also shatters the credibility of the ad, exposing the celebrities’ testimonials as contrived and paid out.
As to the experiences and testimonials concerning the product, the sources include the evidence provided by Proactiv itself and the independent ones. The first category does not include any information on the possible restrictions and side effects of the products. Instead, they are focused on the positive qualities and the magnificent outcomes that the treatments are supposed to produce. Such, for example, are the video infomercials broadcasted on TV and followed on YouTube. The ad featuring Adam Levine depicts the singer using Proactiv+ to cleanse his skin and prevent acne (Proactiv). The celebrity expresses his views on the importance of good appearance and testifies that he, personally, uses Proactiv+ every day. At that, the ad does not include any information on what the product consists of or how it works.
Another infomercial features several celebrities, including Nicole Scherzinger, and common consumers, all of which share their positive experiences with Proactiv (Proactiv UK). The infomercial is structured and uses descriptions of the product’s effects as interludes between the testimonials. The effect of Proactiv is depicted as solely positive, and the images of celebrities and common people are these of happiness and beauty; the infomercial also features the terms of purchase and a strong call to action.
There is a number of product reviews both in video and text format, the overwhelming majority of which are positive. A negative review provides a seven-year history of Proactiv usage by a female customer (Schwartz, n.pag.). The lady praises the products for the feeling of cleanliness they leave; at the same time, she describes how the treatments caused a sunburn and left marks on her skin. Overall, the review gives the impression of honesty since it adequately assesses the positive and negative features of the product (Schwartz, n.pag.).
Not surprisingly, the reviews and testimonials produced by the company itself are solely used for advertising purposes. The dermatological information and restrictions are nowhere to be seen in the infomercials, which are indeed obtrusive with the images of celebrities and happy customers with new, radiant complexion. As to the independent review, it does not sell; instead, the personal experience is shared to inform and possibly warn the customers about the harmful effects.
To recapitulate, the sources we have reviewed are engaged in conversations on the topics of Proactiv’s medical qualities, advertisement techniques, and users’ experiences. There is a common quality to the web content and video materials produced by Proactiv, which is customer-orientedness. This can be determined by the fact that Proactiv’s infomercial testimonials are strictly positive, and the “before-after” pictures present unbelievable results.
From the other perspective, the advertisement strategies are criticized for their aggressiveness and perseverance of pop culture overuse. Other medications that might have proved more effective for acne treatment remain unseen by the public due to pervasive advertising. The median between the two opposite views are independent customer reviews that adequately enlist the pros and cons of the product and reach a genuine verdict tested in vivo. Importantly, there is a high probability of side effects due to Proactiv’s aggressive active ingredients; the warnings are nowhere to be mentioned except the independent customer and medical reviews.
From what we have learned about the Proactiv brand and its advertising tools, it appears that the company has reached its astonishing sales level not so much by the quality of the product as by constantly abusing its customers’ lack of judgment. Our argument is largely derived from the common point that some of the sources openly emphasize and others evidentiate: the brand’s belligerent advertising policy. Objectively speaking, Proactiv can be criticized for aggressive advertising with customer belittlement and pop culture overuse while at the same time depriving the customers of necessary information about the possible restrictions of use and negative outcomes.
The brand is obviously targeted at the younger consumers, which is determined by the use of pop culture. Indeed, for a Justin Bieber or Adam Levine fans, the iconic stars’ participation in the ads can be a categorical imperative to go and buy. To those indifferent to either of the stars, it is the images of beauty and youth that these persons epitomize that are directly attributed to the products. The popularity of the brand is largely conditioned by the images of success with which the consumers have come to associate the products through the pop stars which has evolved from the appeal to the consumers’ emotions. Such techniques cannot be regarded as Proactiv’s know-how; the unicity of Proactiv’s advertising is the pervasiveness with which the pop images are deployed.
Burkhart, Craig G., and Craig N. Burkhart. “Treatment of acne vulgaris without antibiotics: tertiary amine–benzoyl peroxide combination vs. benzoyl peroxide alone (Proactiv Solution™).” International Journal of Dermatology 46.1 (2007): 89-93. Print.
Drs. Rodan & Fields: Proactiv. Guthy-Renker, LLC., 2016. Web.
Ilicic, Jasmina, and Cynthia M. Webster. “Eclipsing: When Celebrities Overshadow the Brand.” Psychology & Marketing 31.11 (2014): 1040-1050. Print.
Oltmanns, David. “Proactiv Solution!” Ad Strategy: Thinking about the thinking behind advertising. WordPress.com, 2010. Web.
Proactiv. “Interview with Adam Levine for Proactiv+.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 2015. Web.
Proactiv UK. “Proactiv+ UK Advert starring Nicole Scherzinger.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 2014. Web.
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Schwartz, Justine Ingersoll. “I Didn’t Realize How Bad Proactiv Was for My Skin Until I Stopped Using It.” SheFinds. Mode Media, 2014. Web.
Tanaka, Aoi, Cathy Nguyen, and Jenni Romaniuk. “The Strengths and Weaknesses of Celebrities as Branding and Creative Design Elements in Advertising.” Journal of Design, Business & Society 1.1 (2015): 57-75. Print.