Ortho Dermatologics (Bridgewater, NJ) is one of the largest prescription dermatology businesses dedicated to helping patients in the treatment of skin disorders. They develop, manufacture and market pharmaceutical products for conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema. In 2020, they set out to remodel the industry with dermatology.com.
The company had acquired a valuable domain in dermatology.com and intended to make it the marketplace of the future for all things skin. The business plan was radical, and the ambition was nothing less than to democratize access to dermatology and quality prescription products through telemedicine.
We were asked to imagine the platform’s front-end experience (branding, UX/UI, content), as well as to manage its nationwide consumer and HCP launch campaign (advertising, U.S. media deployment strategy). In true startup fashion, we built an entire ecosystem within a few months, while trying to revolutionize one of the most regulated industries in the U.S.
Our main challenge was the fact that we were among the first pharma ventures to jump into e-commerce and try to compete online with OTC (over-the-counter), non-regulated brands. In a digital mercantile world ruled by hypertargeting and personalization, not being allowed to gather data on our customers was one of many curve balls we had to overcome.
More significantly, the FDA required us to outsource the final product recommendation to an unbiased third party. This “digital arm’s length” created a major–and mostly unusual–interruption in the user experience (imagine a store from which, in order to check out, you need to go to another store and get permission first). To bridge this gap and avoid major drop-offs, we needed to educate consumers on FDA rules and regulations while creating a brand experience with enough pull that they would still want to “request” our products after going through all of those extra steps.
Our last obstacle (and not the least) was high pricing in a market essentially driven by cost. Yes, the platform promised accessible consultations, but the cost of our prescribed solutions remained high when compared to generic drug alternatives. Creating more perceived value was imperative if we wanted to overcome the category’s general indifference to branded vs. generic skincare treatments.
While dermatology.com did cater to any American with skin concerns, our strategy was to jump-start the business by focusing our launch dollars on the most receptive audience. We zeroed in on the 35+ affluent women, as they were already willing to invest into premium beauty treatments and were actively seeking “better solutions” to treat their wrinkles and fine lines. We decided to present dermatology.com as the best possible way to unlock access to ultimate prescription treatments.
So, we positioned the platform as a skincare revolution. Where most of our competition tried to downplay their prescription offerings through the lens of lifestyle familiarity and colorful accessibility, we wanted to overtly demonstrate that we were breaking new ground. We wanted consumers to know that a “new option” was being added to the top of their list. Through a futuristic-looking theme, we made this innovation clear. This art direction also helped us elevate the perception of our rather classical pharmaceutical product offering. Straightforward medical content was made digestible and easily available to furthermore support a professional sense of trust.
This in turn influenced our media strategy, which had the objective to create awareness and, most importantly, foster trust with the brand. First, educational editorials supported spreads in prime publications such as Harper Bazaar. This helped launch the conversation around dermatology.com and how it allowed people to “unlock access” to quality prescription skincare through telemedicine. We then planned to reveal a 30-second spot through connected TV, which allowed us to have brand-building impact while remaining focused on our target. Women 35+ with high HHI saw our TV ad play large and loud and then got retargeted by a digital campaign that generated 1.5M quality leads to the platform.
We eventually officially launched dermatology.com, which became the talk of the town almost overnight. It was such a disruption for the category that dermatologists around the country rallied to chime in, requesting a say in the platform. Dermatology.com was seen as a potential flagship for the profession itself.
The e-store has now been taken offline as all efforts are geared towards building a version 2.0. The “marketplace of the future” project now has the opportunity to expand and serve a greater purpose as a larger hub for an entire community. In hindsight, an earlier involvement of dermatologists in such a transformational project would seem obvious, but would have Uber been so successful if it had launched in partnership with the taxi industry? Can we expect an industry to evolve without challengers willing to take risks? Regardless, we feel privileged to have had the chance to work alongside such trailblazers and are impatiently awaiting the new business plan of dermatology.com.
Jean Michel Simard, Hugo Boesch
Samuel Larocque, Lian Benoit
Production Graphic Designer
Jean-Michel Lavoie, Mateusz Markiewicz, Rafik Andraos
Terry Paquet, Sharon Forrest, Andrew Morgan, Anjela Freyja
William Arcand (L’Éloi)
Andrew Ly assisted by Alper Sisters (Teamm)
Fredérique Gauthier (Folio)
Video Ad Team
Martin C. Pariseau (Cinélande)
1st assistant director
Director of Photography
Olivia Leblanc (Folio)
VFX & Matte Painting
3D Creation & Animation
Jean-Michel Simard (TUX)
Charles-Étienne Pascal (SHED)
Music & Sound