Zit Cream Targets Teens With Direct Web Effort

Idea Spotting (Literally): Zapzyt Uses Rich Media to Break Out on MySpace

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- What could be more horrifying for a teen than waking up the morning before the prom with a giant pimple? You might say direct-response TV on the web, particularly on MySpace.
Zapzyt has 4,500 friends on MySpace, where rich-media ads converse with teen consumers.
Zapzyt has 4,500 friends on MySpace, where rich-media ads converse with teen consumers.

That's the idea behind a first-of-its-kind effort for acne medication Zapzyt. The brand is using rich-media ads in which actress Kate James and former MTV "Real World" star Derrick Kosinski pop in to chat when MySpace users listed as ages 13 to 17 roll over a banner ad.

Yet, far from being horrified, targeted teens appear to love the idea. The ads have generated a surprising 11% click-through rate, said Randi Wilson, account executive for Zapzyt's interactive shop, Ocean Bridge, Santa Monica, Calif. That compares with click-through rates between 0.7% and 1.3% for the campaign's more conventional banners.

Befriending a pimple medicine
The effort is the first to use what Rovion's "InPerson" technology on MySpace. "MySpace is very conscious about pop-ups on the site," Ms. Wilson said. "They were really open to it as long as we upheld their guidelines and were really clear that it had to be user-initiated."

The rate and level of response also has surprised Whitney Burns, VP-marketing for Jackson, Miss.-based Waltman Pharmaceuticals, marketer of Zapzyt. "I have been pleasantly surprised," Ms. Burns said. "We have 4,500 friends on MySpace. It's just amazing to me."

Many of those friends are posting testimonials about Zapzyt's effectiveness, including that it left them zit-free in time for prom.

Going to the social epicenter
Zapzyt has used print and some network TV in the past but never direct TV. "We decided to go with the premier networking site and just reach teenagers where they are today," Ms. Burns said.

Prom and back-to-school are the category's major selling occasions, Ms. Burns said. She didn't disclose sales, but Zapzyt has a long road ahead relative to its big competitors, such as Reckitt Benckiser's Clearasil and Guthy-Renker's DRTV hit Proactiv; sales of the latter are believed to approach $1 billion.

Still, Ms. Burns said many of Waltman's customers tell the company Zapzyt works better than those products. "It's great to get that letter or e-mail that says, 'I can go back outside now,'" she said.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the "InPerson" rich-media product used by Zapzyt on MySpace was from Ocean Bridge. In fact, it was developed by Rovion.
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