After Leesa Eichberger took the chief marketing job for Jenny Craig a few months ago, she got a similar response from people when sharing the news: "Oh, I love Jennifer Hudson."
There was one problem. Ms. Hudson stars for Weight Watchers, not Jenny Craig. For Ms. Eichberger, the confusion symbolized the problem plaguing weight-management advertising. "The category just has a sea of same," she said, marked by celebrity-filled spots and before-and-after pictures.
That is why for its next campaign debuting Monday, Jenny Craig is ditching the celebs. No more Valerie Bertinelli, Mariah Carey or Jason Alexander, who have all appeared in Jenny ads in recent years. Rather, the Nestle-owned marketer is taking a simpler approach with animated ads that plug its portion-controlled food and one-on-one support.
"It's a change for the category, to actually say what we do," Ms. Eichberger said, rather than "go down that same clichéd path that is out there."
The campaign, by Havas, New York, comes as traditional weight-loss marketers are finding the going rough as they battle competition from do-it-yourself apps like Myfitnesspal.com. Weight Watchers, the traditional leader for paid plans, recently changed CEOs after reporting poor earnings results. Parent Nestle does not disclose Jenny Craig profits. But on an analyst call on Aug. 8, Chief Financial Officer Wan Ling Martello said the Jenny Craig business "was very much below our expectations."