A few months ago, as a typical 20-something-year-old does, I was half watching tv while the other half of my attention was mindlessly scrolling through social media. I don’t remember what show was on, but something completely grabbed my attention. In true 21st century fashion, I rewound the DVR to watch it again. And again. And something about it made me think “that commercial was pretty freaking cool.” So I broke it down to figure out why I was so intrigued.
First, watch it for yourself: Walgreens, Summer: Save Your Skin
Like any other person interested in marketing, I love to critique commercials. But here’s the thing: I don’t just mean critiquing “it was good” or “what did I just watch?” Don’t get me wrong, I do that too. However, there is so much more to look for in a commercial. Visuals, timing, audio, voice and so much more go into a good commercial but the biggest factor I pay attention to as a content strategist is messaging; what point are they trying to get across?
This ad instantly grabbed my attention by playing this curious melody in the background and showing everyday people coming on screen individually. No sculpted models, no perfect jawlines, no fancy costumes. Just everyday people sitting in front of a camera. “Okay, I’m curious, what’s going on here?” Then a black screen appears with a statement saying “We showed people the sun damage they couldn’t see” and immediately flashed to modified lighting showing obvious markings on a young girl’s (very shocked) face. The colors and reactions captured my attention. My eyes were hooked to each face.
During the visual concepts, I discovered the beauty in the music playing in the background. If you listen closely, you will hear the lyrics to “Pretty Ugly” by Tierra Whack saying “don’t worry ‘bout me, I’m doing good, I’m doing great, alright.” Why did this blow me away? Let’s refer back to the black screen we talked about earlier. “We showed people the sun damage they couldn’t see.” The point of this ad was to bring awareness to skin health and sun exposure because it’s an issue most of us sweep under the rug. The lyrics show just how unaware the people are to their skin damage from the sun. So clever.
Now let’s dig a little deeper into this. Why did Walgreens make this commercial? To sell their sunscreen? Lotions? Aloe after a scorching sunburn? Yes, but there’s more to it. Social responsibility. Unless you’ve spent hours reading about social responsibility in one of your college classes or you’ve run across a random LinkedIn article, you may not know what this means.
Here’s how I would define it: social responsibility is any act a business takes to promote a positive cause for a large group of people.
You may ask “why would a business do this if there is no benefit for them?” Well, good question. There is a very fine line between being socially responsible and trying to promote your brand. However, each case has a different line drawn in the sand. Some businesses cross the line by bragging about whatever social movement they’re promoting and blasting their brand all over the cause. Then there are businesses like Starbucks who plaster their name all over their actions but in an accepted manner. Starbucks creates an annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report to tell all the ways they are creating a positive impact. What makes this work for Starbucks? All their CSR actions become part of their business plan so it’s acceptable for them to “brag” about it. Unlike Starbucks, Walgreens was subtle in this case. With this commercial, Walgreens was practicing social responsibility in bringing awareness to skin health and sun damage but with a subtle hint of promoting their “specially trained beauty consultants.”
The commercial aired on television from May through July and was posted on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. On YouTube alone, the video generated over 2 million views. Along with a brilliant video, Walgreens used strong social media practices by replying to responses on social media, including this one on Twitter.
Walgreens continued on with follow up videos of people from the original video talking about what they saw under the light.
Additionally, Walgreens created the Walgreens Bus Tour: Destination Healthy Skin where they toured the country “to change behavior and save lives through skin cancer prevention education” in a customized RV featuring two exam rooms for consultations. Their press release stated their mission and destinations for the summer tour from May – July 2019.
A Skin Cancer Foundation dermatologist provided free skin screenings and Walgreens Beauty Consultants and Pharmacists provided additional sun safety awareness activities. The tour reached more than 15 communities across the country.
Overall, Walgreens has done a great job on this campaign. With strong messaging, social responsibility can be quite effective and I’m rooting for Walgreens on this one. I see a huge opportunity for Walgreens to continue campaigning positive impacts on health with a combination of clear messaging and strong social media practices like they have done here.