Monday, July 15, 2024

Michael Cera’s CeraVe Campaign Is Proof We Need More Little Weirdos in Beauty Marketing

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For years — maybe decades — I hadn’t been sincerely tickled by a celebrity beauty brand ambassador until last February, when Jennifer Coolidge interrupted our regularly scheduled programming with an E.L.F. Super Bowl commercial.

Coolidge is many things: a masterful comedic actor, a joy to watch when she accepts much-deserved awards, and, after last year’s makeup spot, I’d argue that she’s also a catalyst. That ad, in which she finds the brand’s makeup primer to be cartoonishly sticky, opened up a new world of possibilities for celebrity-spokesperson beauty advertising — one that doesn’t take itself so seriously and recognizes that humor can be a wee bit quirkier than Eva Longoria poking fun at how she pronounced “hyaluronic acid” in a previous commercial.

Jennifer Coolidge is also an undeniable knockout and even a former beauty school student — someone you’re not the least bit surprised to see in a makeup campaign. But it wasn’t the fact that Jennifer Coolidge is beautiful that made the campaign so enjoyable and memorable; it’s that she’s a little weirdo. And perhaps that has gone unnoticed because she’s such a clear choice for a beauty spokesperson.

Michael Cera, on the other hand — I don’t think any of us saw that coming.

In case you haven’t seen the increasingly and charmingly bizarre social media campaign in which Michael Cera claims he’s the founding father of well-loved skin-care brand CeraVe, I’ll summarize (though that won’t sufficiently capture the Michael Cera-ness of it all): On January 22, an influencer “spotted” him signing bottles of CeraVe at a Brooklyn drugstore, and “paparazzi” snapped photos of him handing out CeraVe products to passersby on the sidewalk. A couple of days later, he did an interview with a podcaster, keeping a straight face as he insisted the “Cera” in CeraVe is a reference to him, not the skin-care ingredient ceramides, as the brand’s advertising has always highlighted. This, of course, was all made to look as if Cera had gone rogue, but relatively savvy consumers could tell there was an irreverent marketing team behind the curtain.

This became more apparent on February 5 with the release of a video in which dermatologist Muneeb Shah, DO, (who is a CeraVe partner) gently grills Cera about his skin-care knowledge. And then, on February 6, came the commercial (shown below), more dramatic than a 1980s fragrance ad, in which Cera pushes “his” moisturizer — though the brand claimed that he funded the spot himself.

For the past three weeks, CeraVe has been so committed to the bit that it even put out a statement on Instagram denying Cera’s association with the brand, and its PR reps have been reluctant to share any information with Allure that would reveal CeraVe was in on the joke the whole time — though a February 7 New York Times interview with the president of the advertising agency that created the campaign let that cat out of the bag. (Kudos to you if the timing of these bits wasn’t lost on you. You can expect it to come to a well-moisturized head during the Super Bowl on February 11, as that reporting also revealed.)

I can’t help but wonder if the folks at Cetaphil saw this and were kicking themselves for not offering Phil Collins (or any other famous Phil) a campaign years ago.

See, whenever I get a press release announcing a new brand ambassador, my reaction is typically a bored good-for-them kind of feeling. “Oh. Yeah. That makes sense.” And yes, of course, Laneige and K18 would want Sydney Sweeney and Sofia Richie as their respective spokespeople, because who wouldn’t want skin like Sydney Sweeney’s and hair like Sofia Richie’s? Megan Thee Stallion is an amazing makeup artist in her own right — why wouldn’t someone want to buy the Revlon products she promotes?

But aspirational, conventional beauty isn’t the only thing a beauty consumer wants; that said, an extremely earnest, patronizing takedown of beauty standards isn’t always what a beauty consumer wants, either. Some of us just want to laugh at weird shit.

And that’s one of several reasons I was immediately won over by this CeraVe campaign. The others? Michael Cera himself. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is one of my favorite movies, and it made him one of my favorite comedic actors, so I’m clearly biased. And then there’s the fact that the entire concept behind this campaign hinges on four letters — a meaningless morphological Venn diagram. It is absolutely bonkers and simultaneously brilliant.

It’s not like CeraVe wasn’t already running a relatively memorable campaign. My fiancé, whose interest in beauty extends no farther than what curly-hair products I can get him for free, recites “the ceramides in CeraVe” every time that commercial comes on. But their typical ads involve exactly what you might expect from a skin-care commercial: a lot of well-moisturized arms and legs. Michael Cera’s campaign is the opposite of what you might expect, despite the obvious name overlap. But it’s that obvious name overlap that makes the fruition of this campaign less obvious, because what beauty brand would actually do something this ridiculous?

CeraVe, apparently. And hopefully more brands will recruit unlikely celebrities for punny or just delightfully ludicrous campaigns moving forward. I have plenty of suggestions if any agencies are reading this. Ready? OK, hear me out:

  • Jack Black for Jack Black
  • Billy Joel for Good Dye Young
  • Steve Buscemi for Lumify
  • Mo Rocca for Moraccanoil
  • The cast of 1997’s Con Air for Conair (more Buscemi!)

I get it, though — in terms of individual taste in humor, the “Michael CeraVe” campaign isn’t for everyone. But, maybe unintentionally so, the campaign showcases how beauty and personal care are for everyone, not just modelesque A-list women and the people who want to look like them. And even though I admittedly am one of those people, I’ll buy products from a funky little performance art weirdo over another picture-perfect starlet any day.

More must-know skin-care info:

Now watch Charli D’Amelio react to TikTok beauty trends:

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