Weight Watchers Hands $70 Million Media Account to Horizon

Shop Beats Out Heavyweights OMD, UM for U.S. Planning and Buying Business

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Weight Watchers has awarded its $70 million U.S. media planning and buying account to Horizon media after a pitch, according to industry executives. In a case of David taking on Goliath, the independent shop beat out Omnicom Group's OMD and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann, two of the industry's most successful new-business chasers over the past 18 months.

In February, the weight-loss marketer reported 2009 revenue of $1.4 billion, compared to $1.5 billion in 2008. In its 2009 earnings report David Kirchhoff, Weight Watchers' president-CEO, said the company's results were within target despite a very "difficult economic environment." He anticipates more of the same in 2010, but said the company will make the necessary changes to adapt to the marketplace. "We will continue to invest in initiatives to modernize our offerings to drive long-term growth in our meetings business," he said.

The nearly $60 billion weight-loss industry grew 2% in 2009, a sizable drop-off of its usual rate of 6%. The recession prompted dieters to rely on do-it-yourself programs, switch from high-priced programs to cheaper ones or quit dieting altogether.

Pile & Co. managed the media review, which kicked off in late February. The incumbent, WPP's Mediaedge:cia, did not participate. The agencies could not be reached for comment.

Interpublic's McCann Erickson, New York, is the lead creative agency for Weight Watchers, which currently features an animated character as the embodiment of hungry.

For Horizon, Weight Watcher is the latest piece of new business to come to the shop. In November, Crown Imports named Horizon its media planning and buying agency of record for its entire portfolio of beer brands including Corona Extra and Modelo Especial. And in January, the agency won planning and buying assignments for health and wellness company Amerifit; FreshPret, a marketer of refrigerated dog food; and Qdoba Mexican Grill.

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