Johnson & Johnson opens Neutrogena Studios to create unbranded long-form videos
Having tried unsuccessfully for years to use advertising to halt the rise of skin cancer, Johnson & Johnson’s Neutrogena is taking a fresh approach—a content studio to create non-branded, long-form video primarily for streaming and on-demand services.
Neutrogena Studios, which will focus on work from diverse creators, is kicking off with “In the Sun,” a 37-minute documentary about skin health, executive produced by Kerry Washington. While this and other studio work will relate to Neutrogena’s skincare focus, it has no overt branding, says Tyler Rochwerg, digital marketing and innovation manager at J&J.
“Everything we put out at Neutrogena Studios is entertainment, not advertising,” Rochwerg says. “We’ve seen data and did a test screening, and the ability to lead people to action with long-form entertainment is just bar none. You just see it having just an emotional and inspiring impact on consumers.”
“In the Sun” will debut April 27 on streaming platforms and is an official selection at numerous film festivals, according to J&J. It follows stories of seven families dealing with long-term effects of living in the sun. The film addresses misconceptions about sun safety, including that Black people aren’t susceptible to skin cancer, which accounts for one of every three cancers diagnosed globally, according to the World Health Organization.
Neutrogena is trying the new approach to skin health education because, frankly, the old ones weren’t working, says Sebastian Garcia-Vinyard, group brand director for sun care at J&J.
“We’ve done lots of PSAs,” he says. “We’ve tried to engage people in conversations about the risks of skin cancer. But somehow behavior doesn’t change, and skin cancer rates continue to climb, despite the fact that it’s the most preventable cancer.”
Neutrogena’s brand purpose is “to protect people from sunburns and early skin aging, and ultimately skin cancer,” Garcia-Vinyard says. Neutrogena Studios content will be aligned with that, he says, “but the content itself is really non-branded. The stories will certainly link back to the brand, but to tell these stories properly, we need to create some distance between the content and the brand.”
The move also tracks with the changing media market, Rochwerg says. Traditional TV, where Neutrogena can buy ads and run PSAs, is declining, as people, particularly younger people, shift to streaming platforms that are often ad-free—and where Neutrogena Studios content will live mostly.
Neutrogena Studios is also launching First Frame in collaboration with Ghetto Film School, a non-profit that provides creative education in Los Angeles, New York and London for young filmmakers. The eight-month program will support Gen Z filmmakers through training and production as they create short films focused on skin health expected to reach market later this year.
Neutrogena’s is the first such content studio at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos., and other brands have been expressing interest, Rochwerg says, though they haven’t launched projects yet.