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From the 14th Annual Shorty Awards

Stop Acne In Its Tracks

Audience Honor in Beauty

Entered in Beauty, Humor, TikTok

About this entry

Connect to the cultural conversation 

As a brand known solely for its efficacy in treating acne, Differin needed to gain cultural relevance by connecting to the growing acne conversation. Consumers are sharing their acne stories and feelings and looking for solutions, particularly the adult acne sufferer who has had acne for six or more years. Our audience, the millennial and Gen Z woman with acne, is driving this conversation by expressing her real frustration throughout the entire acne journey. Utilizing her platform of choice, TikTok, we have the opportunity to authentically connect to culture by getting real about acne alongside our audience. 


Increase engagement with platform-specific content

Differin does not have a cultural point of view and lacks engagement on social media. We must increase engagement by connecting to our audience’s TikTok-specific behaviors and acne journeys.


Do Things Differin

Historically, the acne category has operated with certain tropes, showing “perfect skin” and glossing over the frustration and rage that comes with having adult acne. It’s our time to Do Things Differin by uncovering these feelings while shamelessly showing real pimples, marks and scars. By connecting to the experience of adult acne sufferers and incorporating our acne and post-acne products, Differin Gel, Resurfacing Scar Gel and Dark Spot Correcting Serum, we will communicate “we get you” and that we have a solution.


Why does this entry deserve to win?

Let’s get real with the realest generation ever.

A zit in a wrinkle? Looks like I CAN have it all.”

TikTok has put a spotlight on millennial women’s quick wit, candid humor, and their appreciation for realness. It’s also become a huge hub for skincare education and tips. So, as a skincare brand that strives to always keep things real, it was a natural fit for Differin to activate on TikTok with work against our Differin Gel and our post-acne products.


We'll Do Things Differin by doing things the same. 

TikTok has become a haven for self-expression driven by a community of content makers – whether it’s sharing a piece of original audio, joining a video challenge, or putting one’s unique spin on a storytelling trend, the world of TikTok’ers are reinventing the way that we make and consume content. Differin wanted to become part of that platform-wide conversation, not be a commercial break from it. So we spent an unhealthy amount of time watching TikToks until we had identified every memorable, repeatable trend that was gaining traction on the app, and started concepting ways to insert our acne products into the fun. For example, TikTok’ers LOVE a good rant, whether they’re complaining about an ex, a professor from hell, or their takeout arriving an hour late – TikTok’ers are not afraid to tell you how they feel. So we turned our brand strategy (End the frustration of adult acne) into an entertaining rant about breakouts and offered up Differin Gel as the solution to the problem while keeping the storytelling completely authentic. By putting a Differin twist on popular platform trends, we were able to create work that felt more like native content than ads.


Must. Resist. Production value.

We weren’t trying to hide the fact that our TikToks were ads, but we genuinely wanted to fit in and continue to be the skincare brand that makes consumers consistently say, “you get me.” So, we cast real women (read: no models here) with real acne and a real sense of humor.  The sets weren’t dressed, the talent wore their own clothes, there was no pro-level lighting rigs, the cast shot the work themselves (with a bit of coaching), we edited the work as if it were done on a phone, and used platform-specific fonts. There were no logos aside from handheld shots of Differin Gel and our post-acne products sitting on a bathroom sink – we resisted any slick production values to fully live into the look of the platform. This is a tough thing for a skincare brand to pull off, but DO THINGS DIFFERIN isn’t just our tagline, it’s how we approach everything we produce.


Trying something new

We finally dipped our toe in the waters of TikTok because we were invited to participate in a beta test of a brand-new e-commerce ad unit where consumers could buy Differin Gel straight from the video without ever leaving the platform.



We increased engagement on TikTok by connecting to cultural moments and conversations.

We connected to the unique needs of the adult acne sufferers, using their platform of choice: TikTok. Using a brand-new ad unit in its beta phase (“Collections” ad), we connected the dots and secured 332K engagements inclusive of likes, comments and shares, and a 1.29% engagement rate. This content proved strong and efficient enough to secure a $0.50 cost per click, which is 18% below benchmark. The Differin brand was able to become more than just an efficacious product, but also a part of culture.



Video for Stop Acne In Its Tracks

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Deutsch NY, Differin

Entry Credits