NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- January is the perennial season for dieting, but in 2009, Americans may feel the pinch in their wallets as acutely as the pinch around their waistlines. "This is going to be the year of the frugal dieter," said John LaRosa, Research Director of MarketData Enterprises, a Tampa, Fla., market-research firm that tracks the industry. Even so, players in the $60 billion U.S. weight-loss industry are doing all they can to insure that people will continue spending money to shed pounds with new ad campaigns and product offerings. Here's a scorecard.
WEIGHT WATCHERS INTERNATIONAL
The industry leader, whose tagline is "Stop Dieting. Start Living," rolled out a program called "Momentum," which senior VP-Marketing Cheryl Callan said emphasizes filling, healthful foods. The campaign, created by McCann Erickson, New York, features "Hungry," a furry orange monster that tempts would-be dieters with junk food. Weight Watchers anticipates that the push, which will run through midyear, will be as consistent in size and scope as 2008's. This year, though, radio spots replace out-of-home. "There was no reason to be geographically focused," Ms. Callan said. "We're trying to be national."
The company also revamped weightwatchers.com with a new suite of weight-loss tools. According to Weight Watchers, the site gets an average of 4.5 million unique visitors visitors each month. In November, Weight Watchers launched a mobile component for members.
Jenny Craig kicked off 2009 with a re-emphasis on its clinical efficacy, said Scott Parker, VP-marketing. "We're trying to communicate that no diet is inexpensive or a value if it doesn't work," he said. Jenny Craig is significantly more expensive than other diet programs; Mr. LaRosa said it costs between $350 to $400 a month.
Jenny Craig will continue its relationships with celebrity spokespeople Queen Latifah and Valerie Bertinelli, and in February, add to the roster a new "highly regarded" actress who will start her own weight-loss journey. Mr. Parker declined to discuss financials in detail, but said advertising outreach would be "slightly more than last year." Advertising is handled by Y&R, Irvine, Calif.
The company will also advertise its line extension, Jenny Direct, which provides home food-delivery service and counseling by phone, and revamp its website with new tools.
The new tagline for this food-based program feels just right for the times: "Lose Weight. Save Money." Chief Marketing Officer Monica Woo said consumers are "very torn about losing weight and being healthy because they almost feel guilty spending on themselves in very difficult times."
To that effect, NutriSystem has launched a free website with enhanced tools and community space; partnered with Schwan's Home Service to bolster sales and delivery for frozen meals; and teamed with Costco to reach out to a new customer base. NutriSystem does not have physical merchandise in Costco, but has in-store display cards that customers can activate at home. NutriSystem, which does its advertising in-house, is a direct marketer but aims to become increasingly active in the online space. In February, the company will introduce a new celebrity spokesperson, an as-yet-unnamed "performing artist."
After suffering the demise of the low-carb-diet fad, Atkins is fighting back. This year it embraces celebrity spokesperson Courtney Thorne-Smith and a "Sweet. Sexy. Science" tagline, designed to unite the Atkins diet with Atkins products -- a big change from prior campaigns. Brand Manager Lisa Wells said the push aims to debunk myths. "What we really want [...] is to re-educate the consumer about Atkins," she said, combating the notion that it's the "steak-and-eggs diet." Ms. Wells pointed out that the diet fared well in a New England Journal of Medicine study released last summer, and that since, Atkins has reformulated its bars and shakes as well as its packaging. To lure customers, in 2009 Atkins offers coupons online and a free and updated website with weight-loss tips and tools.