Derms: The top pick

April 1, 2007

The message the AAD wants people to get is that dermatologists - and only dermatologists - are the doctors who should be seen when skin problems arise.

The ads, which began appearing in March in major consumer magazines, feature people of various ages and skin tones wearing T-shirts emblazoned with wording such as "Skin cancer defeated," "Acne treated" and "Tattoo removal completed." The campaign targets women, who are the primary family healthcare decision makers.

The ads began running in the March issues of Better Homes & Gardens, Oprah Winfrey's O magazine, Prevention, Real Simple, Redbook and Women's Health.

"Our ad agency's research tells us that the magazine ads will reach an age demographic of 25 to 54 years old, and that 68 percent of all these readers will read the ads an average of 6.3 times over the period that they run," says Susan Weinkle, M.D., a Bradenton, Fla., dermatologist and AAD board member who serves as the board's liaison to the council on communications.

"It's all about educating the public and it's all about repetition - people don't get the message in just one shot," she says.

The message the AAD wants people to get is that dermatologists - and only dermatologists - are the doctors who should be seen when skin problems arise.

"The germination of the campaign really started two or three years ago, when Clay Cockerell was AAD president," says Portland, Ore., dermatologist Diane R. Baker, M.D., the newly elected president. "Our members were expressing their concerns then about nonphysicians and nondermatologists claiming they were skincare experts.

"The public was confused, so we carefully set in motion a well-thought-out specialty-positioning campaign to educate people of all ages about who they should be seeing for expert skincare. These ads are the result of those efforts."

Dr. Weinkle says an effectiveness evaluation will be done in May 2007 to determine just how well the ads are succeeding in getting their message across. Results of that evaluation will be presented to members at a subsequent AAD conference in New York. She says when the ads were shown to members at the most recent national AAD convention, they were positively received.

That opinion, however, isn't necessarily unanimous.

"There have been these kinds of public awareness campaigns by the AAD before, and I think the AAD has struggled with getting them right," says William Philip Werschler, M.D., assistant clinical professor of medicine/dermatology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle.