"I've been living Atkins for years," actor Rob Lowe says in new spots for Atkins Nutritionals, the brand's boldest attempt yet to position itself as a lifestyle enhancer, not a line of diet foods.
Lowe, movie and TV viewers know, wasn't in need of a diet. He's never lost weight on the plan, which promotes eating foods that are low in carbs and sugars, and high in protein.
Atkins is hopeful Lowe will appeal to the tens of millions of people who Chief Marketing Officer Scott Parker calls "self-directed," those trying to cut back on carbohydrates and sugar but who "don't want to follow a very dogmatic program."
The broader outreach could also boost Atkins sales, which Parker says are growing in a high-single-digit range.
"We have such a strong equity in weight loss that we don't need to keep repeating it, says Parker. "What we need to do is have a more relevant, growth-oriented message."
Atkins' own research indicates that about half of its buyers have never tried to lose weight on Atkins.
"We think this is a tremendous opportunity for us to extend our franchise beyond the traditional weight loss," says Parker.
Parker said some company employees had heard about Lowe's eating habits, leading Atkins to reach out to the actor's management team to find out if Lowe actually lived this kind of lifestyle. "The response was very enthusiastic yes," says Parker.
The actor, with dozens of credits including the movies "The Outsiders" and "St. Elmo's Fire" and TV series such as "The West Wing" and "Parks and Recreation" and, more recently, "Code Black," talks about the Atkins lifestyle in a campaign that began running on Jan. 1. It includes a longer-form commercial for online.
The Atkins brand has been around for years. Dr. Robert Atkins' first book, Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution, about low-carb dieting, was published in 1972. Atkins-branded bars and shakes came along in 1997.
And while its the first time Atkins has gone with a male spokesperson, it has worked consistently with celebrities. Courtney Thorne Smith was the first official spokeswoman in 2009, and in later years Sharon Osborne and Alyssa Milano followed. Kim Kardashian has also promoted the brand, and singer Lauren Alaina is a brand ambassador with her own TV commercials.
Some might recall that just last year, Lowe starred as a KFC colonel promoting the Zinger fried chicken sandwich, which we're guessing is definitely not on the Atkins plan. That comedic role didn't concern Parker.
"People are humans and they don't always eat perfectly," says Parker. "Believe it or not, you can actually go to KFC and get grilled chicken and you'd be Atkins-compliant."
Along with the lifestyle angle are product-focused spots, including one in which Lowe says he likes its shakes.
Meanwhile, other diet-focused brands are out with fresh campaigns as people attempt to start 2018 on a healthy note. Weight Watchers even signed DJ Khaled as a social media ambassador set to keep his millions of fans informed of his progress through his social channels.
"It's a really good time, actually, for weight loss at large, but it's also a great time to expand into generalized nutritional wellness," says Parker.
Parker expects the Lowe-focused campaign to appeal to women and men. It will run on cable and online, including social media posts from Lowe's accounts.
The campaign comes from Acme Idea Company of Norwalk, Conn., which Atkins began working with about six months ago, says Parker. Previously, Interpublic's Campbell Ewald handled the business.