Two ad pitches for weight loss gain more heft

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In preparation for the influx of would-be dieters after the holidays, Weight Watchers International and Jenny Craig Inc. will launch $25 million-plus campaigns this month that play off a deeper understanding of consumers' personal weight-loss requirements.

For Weight Watchers, which was sold to Artal Luxembourg by H.J. Heinz Co. in June 1999, personalization is the centerpiece of its "Winning Points" program. The program, which kicks off Dec. 10, reflects the same system of point values for foods in place since 1997. But now members are offered the chance to approach the program in a personal way with a series of self-assessment tools.

Questionnaires will determine members' dieting personality profile, exercise readiness and ideal eating habits and give tips on how to adapt to the program accordingly.

"We learned that the points program was a simple and attractive way to help people conceptualize fat, fiber and calories, but that there were additions and improvements we could make to increase people's satisfaction while losing weight," said Eliot Glazer, general manager, marketing and business development, at Weight Watchers.

The program is the cornerstone of the ad campaign Weight Watchers will launch Dec. 26. While featuring a new Winning Points logo made up of numbers, the chain will continue to use longtime spokeswoman Sarah Ferguson, the duchess of York, in TV, print and radio ads from The Seiden Group, New York.


In TV spots targeted at women ages 35 to 49, the duchess speaks of her own ability to stay within her specified points range but turns the table on viewers to ask, "What about you? What are you going to do?" The spots then show tempting food and a cross-section of everyday people in eating situations where they are completely satisfied. The new tagline: "We all have our winning points. Let Weight Watchers show you yours."

The ads will appear on high-rated prime-time shows such as "The West Wing" and "Ally McBeal" as well as on morning shows that reach working women. Last year, Weight Watchers spent $26 million in measured media, according to Competitive Media Reporting, while rival Jenny Craig spent $23 million.

Full-page print ads that break in January issues of magazines including Woman's Day, Redbook and the company's own title, Weight Watchers, highlight Weight Watchers' group-support approach with an image of clasping hands and the headline, "You've tried over and over again to lose weight. Maybe it's time to let others give you a hand." A column on a facing page features the duchess touting the Winning Points program. Radio in select markets will also support.


For Jenny Craig, personalized efforts are also in the cards. Under its newly chosen ad agency Doner, Southfield, Mich., and Newport Beach, Calif., and with new VP-marketing Barbara Barry in charge, the weight-loss chain will aim to differentiate itself based on a more personalized version of its one-to-one consulting method, Ms. Barry said.

Jenny Craig is struggling, with its stock trading last week below $2 a share, near its all-time low. Revenue fell 7% to $66.4 million in the quarter ended Sept. 30 (about half the $132.9 million revenue, by contrast, that Weight Watchers reported in its quarter ended April 29). Jenny Craig's stock-market value has plummeted to below $30 million.

But Ms. Barry vows Jenny Craig's advertising next year "will be a much bigger effort" than its 2000 effort. The company spent $17 million in the first half of this year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Although she declined to give specifics about the TV and print campaign, which breaks Dec. 26, Ms. Barry said it would reach out to a more narrowly defined working-woman target with the message that the improved Jenny Craig program offers an even simpler approach to taking off weight.

Among the simpler materials is a customizable monthly calendar, which is aimed at making it easier for clients to interact with consultants.

"We've been changing advertising so much over the last couple of years that we've confused the audience, and now we know better who we're after and how to talk to them," Ms. Barry said.

While Jenny Craig featured notorious White House intern Monica Lewinsky in its post-holiday campaign last year, Ms. Barry said "consumers can identify more with an everyday person than with a celebrity." She declined to comment on whether the company would use another celebrity.

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