How Neutrogena revisited an iconic moment and made a nostalgic splash

The skincare company’s campaign invited influencers to recreate Jennifer Garner’s memorable commercial.


Washing one’s face doesn’t bring much joy.

It’s one of the many mundane tasks you tick off the list before leaving the house. Yet actress Jennifer Garner turned this boring activity into a fun one when she enthusiastically splashed water on her face time and time again in Neutrogena commercials in the early 2000s.

Neutrogena wanted to relive some of that nostalgia with its “Make a Splash” campaign and also announce the launch of Hydro Boost Gel Cleanser for Hydration. Agencies CCOM Group and Golin worked with Neutrogena on the 2022 campaign to build brand relevance by hyping up its famous commercials on their 15th anniversary. Neutrogena also invited influencers to do their own version of the splash to foster nostalgia for Millennials and Gen Z consumers.

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Golin asked if Garner would be interested in participating in the campaign. Garner, who is already a Neutrogena ambassador, agreed. The campaign also connected with influencers and invited them to a Neutrogena pool party to promote its product launch.

The team was a campaign of the year winner in PR Daily’s Social Media & Digital Awards in June.

Here’s what you can learn from the campaign:


Legacy brands can get nostalgic

Neutrogena wanted to remind now-grown-up customers why they loved the brand in high school.

“It has been known for its iconic TV commercials and part of the iconic TV commercials was the splash,” Tommy Sleiman, senior account executive at CCOM Group, told PR Daily. “They really had a momentum going in the 2000s.”

Nostalgia marketing is a big deal for Millennials who enjoy buying things from yesteryear.

“We really wanted to tap into that nostalgia so that people can connect with the brand from its origins to remember that Neutrogena is a legacy brand,” Sleiman said.

The splash was not just haphazard water-throwing. Oh no. There was an art to it. Garner would cup her hands under a stream of water, and with closed eyes she dashed the swooshes of water, which rose gracefully and fell onto her face with precision. Everyone wanted to rinse their faces like that, even if that meant they made a mess. It was important for Neutrogena to recapture some of that magic in that face-washing moment.

Neutrogena launched a #MakeASplash contest on TikTok to encourage people to make their own splash and post them using the hashtag. Contest winners received a cash prize along with a year’s worth of Neutrogena products.

Influencers closed their eyes, leaned in over their counters and unceremoniously threw water all over their faces (and the floor). Some, with drenched faces and hair, laughed at their attempts.

“There’s water everywhere,” nlledoux said during her own recreation.

“It’s funny because you see all these consumers cleansing their faces and making a mess,” Sleiman said. “And that was the point of our campaign – to be very authentic.”

In the end, the contest hashtag earned around 9.8 billion views.


Use a variety of influencers

CCOMGROUP, who handles the Hispanic market for Neutrogena, used Latina actress and model Gaby Espino to join the splash challenge as part of outreach to this demographic.

“It came out really beautiful, actually,” Sleiman said.

Sleiman said that CCOMGROUP picked 13 other influencers to spread their message for the Latina market; Golin had around 18 additional influencers for the larger market. The PR team sent mailers to these influencers inviting them to participate in the challenge.

The mailer inspired a 40% organic posting rate, which exceeded the average posting rates for creative deliveries by 10%.

The #MakeASplash Latinx influencer network boosted contest participation, reaching 43.9 million impressions.

Sleiman said some of their influencers ranged from comedy creators to those who focused on nostalgic content.

“Typically, for Neutrogena as a science-backed brand, we’ve worked with influencers that are more beauty, skin influencers,” Sleiman said. “But this time we tapped into these influencers that were able to speak to different topics and different affinities.”


Throw a party! 

The campaign also featured an in-person event: Make a Splash Poolside Party in Los Angeles. The Y2K-themed party had catering and music to take attendees back to the early 2000s. People showed up wearing early-2000s attire (think “Clueless” and beach vibes) and enjoyed throwback arcade games, era-appropriate makeovers and more.

“We thought it would be a cool way of bringing our influencers together for something with the brand for a nostalgia moment in real life,” Sleiman said.

The lavish party had almost 100 attendees, which resulted in over 229 pieces of organic social content and 7.4 million impressions. Neutrogena’s latest product, Hydro Boost Gel Cleanser for Hydration, was prominently displayed throughout the party including in a “Clueless”-themed closet, around the pool and throughout high-traffic spaces.

“We wanted to make sure that the content that was coming in could include the product somewhere, so that’s why we really placed the product everywhere we could,” Sleiman said.

The entire party was set up to inspire the best social content by offering engaging, photo and video-friendly activities like dance stations, friendship bracelets, arcade games and 2000s-inspired makeup.

“It’s really tapping into a cultural moment that can connect with your audience and with your brand in the most authentic and genuine way,” Sleiman said.


Topics: PR


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