Weight Watchers Begins Review of U.S. Media Planning, Buying

Incumbent Mediaedge:cia Will Not Defend Nearly $70 Million Business

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Weight Watchers has initiated a review for U.S. media planning and buying on its nearly $70 million account, according to industry executives. The incumbent, WPP's Mediaedge:cia, will not defend the business, according to executives with knowledge of the matter.

In recent commercials for Weight Watchers, Hungry, a fuzzy, orange monster, 'destroys weight loss.'
In recent commercials for Weight Watchers, Hungry, a fuzzy, orange monster, 'destroys weight loss.'
The agency could not be reached for comment.

Executives were unsure of which agencies would be taking part in the review but said the process is in the very early stages, with requests for information having gone out "recently."

The nearly $60 billion weight-loss industry grew 2% in 2009, a significant drop-off from its usual rate of 6%. The sector has been hit hard by the recession, which has forced dieters to rely more heavily on do-it-yourself programs, switch from high-priced programs to cheaper ones or stop dieting altogether.

Weight Watchers, the largest diet program in the industry, is currently running in heavy rotation a TV spot from Interpublic Group of Cos. agency McCann Erickson, New York, that features Hungry, a fuzzy, orange monster who "destroys weight loss." In the commercials, women arrive at parties and leave Hungry outside the door. The company is also offering two months of membership for the price of one, about $40.

Weight Watchers magazine saw a 2.05% decrease in single-copy sales for the six months ended Dec. 31 compared to the same period the year prior, according to reports filed to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

For the third quarter of 2009, company sales declined 8% to $325 million. Weight Watchers CEO David Kirchhoff acknowledged, in a statement, that business had suffered in the wake of the recessions, but there were signs of stabilization in the fourth quarter. Sales also declined 9% during the first nine months of 2009, to $1.1 billion. The company reports fourth-quarter and full-year results tomorrow.

The company did not return calls for comment before press time.

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