|Industry||Consumer Packaged Goods|
|Founded||Palm Desert, California (January 1, 1995 )|
|Founder(s)||Katie Rodan, M.D.
Kathy Fields, M.D.
|Revenue||$850 million (2010)|
Proactiv is a brand of acne treatment and skin-care products distributed by direct marketing company Guthy-Renker. Developed by Drs. Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields in 1995, Proactiv is a three-part acne treatment kit that is sold on a subscription basis. It includes a cleanser, toner and treatment that contain benzoyl peroxide and glycolic acid as their active ingredients. It's also sold in other varieties such as a Gentle Formula, Extra Strength and Proactiv+. Face masks, body washes and other skin-care products are also sold under the Proactiv name. Although a clinical study has found that Proactiv reduces comedones, inflamed lesions, and facial oiliness, an 80-person Consumer Reports study concluded that Proactiv was as effective as cheaper drugstore products.
Celebrity endorsements play a significant role in Proactiv's marketing strategy. Many music artists, actors and other celebrities became paid spokesmodels for Proactiv, which spends $200 million a year on commercial air-time. In 2012, some of its commercials were banned in the UK after a consumer filed a complaint that the celebrity endorsers were not likely using the product's UK formulation.
Proactiv was created by two dermatologists, Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields, who met during a summer job at a cardiovascular research lab in Los Angeles in 1984; both attended Stanford University Medical School. After graduation they started their own practices, before deciding to work together to create a preventative treatment for acne. In 1989 the two dermatologists hired a chemist and began developing Proactiv out of Rodan's kitchen, using $60,000 in personal funds. They brainstormed business ideas with executives and market researchers who were invited to dinner parties at Rodan's house. Once developed, the product was rejected by several distributors, before Guthy-Renker agreed to market it in 1995.
Proactiv's primary product is a three-part acne treatment kit that includes a cleanser, toner, and treatment. The kit's only active ingredient, benzoyl peroxide, is a common compound used for acne treatment that kills acne-causing bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes, dries out whiteheads and has anti-inflammation properties. The active ingredient can also cause skin irritation, sensitivity, or allergic reactions and discolors fabrics. The Proactiv cleanser and treatment each contain a 2.5 percent concentration, which can make users more comfortable using it daily when compared to most products that contain a 10 percent concentration. There is also an "Extra Strength" version with a 7 percent concentration of benzoyl peroxide and a "Gentle Formula" with a 2 percent concentration of salicylic acid. The toner contains witch hazel, which reduces facial oil, and glycolic acid, a popular ingredient in chemical peels. The kit is sold on a subscription basis. After the first 30 days, customers are automatically billed for a three-month supply every three months, until the subscription is cancelled.
There is also a Proactiv+ version that does not contain parabens and is intended to also act as a moisturizer. Other products in the Proactiv line have different formulations and active ingredients. A Proactiv moisturizer uses Octinoxate (7.5%) and Zinc Oxide (3%), while a Proactiv-brand anti-dandruff shampoo uses a 1% concentration of Zinc Pyrithione.
Guthy-Renker markets and distributes Proactiv on behalf of its founders. As of 2007, worldwide sales of Proactiv were $850 million annually, 70 percent of which were in the US. The product line is responsible for about half of Guthy-Renker's revenue. Proactiv can be purchased outside of retail stores, to avoid the potential embarrassment of publicly shopping for acne treatment products. As of 2010, 60 percent of Proactiv orders were placed online. It is also sold through a toll-free telephone number, in mall outlets, in vending machines and in certain boutiques.
A clinical study published in the International Journal of Dermatology assessed 23 patients over eight weeks. It found that within four weeks, users of Proactiv reported reductions in comedones (15.1%), inflamed lesions (26.4%) and facial oiliness (27.8%). However, a mixture of benzoyl peroxide and butenifine out-performed Proactiv in the study. A physician writing in Salon noted that Proactiv uses the same active ingredient as cheaper generic store drugs, but that its three-step system made it easier for teens to be diligent. A test by Consumer Reports with 80 volunteers found that the Proactiv system and less expensive drugstore products were equally effective. According to a 2011 review in Consumer Reports, the three-part Proactiv system costs about $20 per month, while individual drugstore products cost about $5. Consumer reviews of Proactiv in online forums are mixed.
Each year about $12 to $15 million is spent on celebrity endorsements of Proactiv and $200 million on commercial air-time. Proactiv favors using an "instantly recognizeable celebrity" and says music artists have been the most effective celebrity spokesmodels.
Its first infomercials used celebrity endorser Judith Light. The New York Times said its early infomercials were "fast-talking" and "hard-selling." An announcer repeatedly said "Call Now" and offered faster shipping if the order was placed within three minutes. In 2005, the infocommercials showed before and after images of Proactiv users, including a mix of consumers and celebrities. They showed "scientific-looking diagrams" and had an introduction to the two dermatologists that founded Proactiv. The commercials promoted pimples as a significant social concern. Lindsay Lohan became a celebrity endorser in 2006.
Proactiv began airing two-minute advertisements and in 2007 installed 100 automated vending machine kiosks for Proactiv in Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Laguna Hills. As 30-minute infomercials became less popular in 2008, sales of Proactiv stalled. Additionally, new entrants to the market created more competition from 2008 to 2010.
In 2010, Proactiv signed celebrity endorsement contracts with music artists Katy Perry, actor Jenna Fischer, Justin Bieber and tennis player Caroline Wozniacki. The product's packaging was modified and it started airing commercials on network television. Its TV ads aired during shows like American Idol, Glee and The View using the theme "Be Proactiv." They included close-up before and after shots of celebrities' faces, with slogans like “I’m no pushover. I’m Proactiv” spoken by Avril Lavigne, who was signed as a celebrity endorser that year.
Guthy-Renker expanded into Web, social and mobile marketing. As of 2010, Proactiv had 1.5 million views on its YouTube channel, 41,000 Facebook fans, and 8,700 Twitter followers. In 2011 Proactiv was one of nine companies that pulled advertising from the MTV show Skins, after the Parents Television Council called for an investigation into whether the show violated child pornography laws. In December 2011 Proactiv signed a celebrity endorsement agreement with Naya Rivera from the TV show Glee and in August 2012 it signed Kaley Cuoco from the show The Big Bang Theory.
In June 2012, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned some of Proactiv's celebrity-endorsed advertising in the UK, after a UK woman filed a complaint that the advertisements were misleading. She said the celebrities were likely to have used Proactiv's American brand, which contains an active ingredient not present in the UK version. The ASA noted the advertisements were targeted at a UK audience and that the UK Proactiv products had a different active ingredient (salicylic acid) than the US version (benzoyl peroxide). The ASA said that signed statements by the celebrities said that they used the UK version of Proactiv for a few weeks, one-to-three years prior, but the advertisements gave the appearance that they continued to benefit from the UK-formulation of the product.
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