The Wall Street Journal
With the new year right around the corner, weight loss and fitness brands are zeroing in on consumers who have eaten a few too many cookies this holiday season.
The busiest month of the year for weight loss products and services to advertise on television has historically been January, according to research firm iSpot. For example, of all national commercial airings for Weight Watchers tracked by iSpot, 26% of those airings occurred in the month of January in 2014 and 17% in 2013.
Just in time for the new year, Weight Watchers recently debuted a new ad campaign called “World of Food,” which pitches the company’s new personalized counseling service by showing that it understands what the world looks like–phones made of chocolate, water coolers that dispense jelly beans– to anyone trying to avoid caloric temptation. Such human-centric services are an important differentiator for Weight Watchers, which has been working to reposition its brand after losing ground to free smartphone apps and gadgets that track calories.
Meanwhile, Nutrisystem recently started airing commercials featuring celebrity spokespeople like Marie Osmond and Dan Marino for its new weight loss product called Fast 5+, which aims to help consumers lose five pounds and one inch off their waist in their first week of dieting.
Avoiding the deluge of pitches will be tough as companies spend millions to peddle their weight loss and fitness products. Three big weight-loss companies — Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig– spent a combined $251 million on measured media for the first nine months of the year, roughly 13% below the prior-year period, according to data from ad tracking research firm Kantar Media. These companies spent a total of $331 million on measured media for all of 2013, according to Kantar Media.
For Weight Watchers, the company has said that turning around recruitment declines is its top priority for 2015. In the third quarter, Weight Watcher’s profit slipped 37% and revenue dropped 13%.
Weight Watchers has shelled out roughly $90 million on traditional media and online display ads for the first nine months of 2014, which is 21% below what it spent in the the year-earlier period, according to Kantar Media. Weight Watchers, however, noted on its most recent earnings call that it is shifting some of its third quarter marketing spending into the fourth quarter this year. The company expects to keep marketing spending for 2015 similar to 2014 levels. Weight Watchers spent $136 million on measured media for all of 2013, according to Kantar Media. The numbers from Kantar Media don’t include all digital ad expenditures, just desktop display advertising.
Weight Watchers has gotten good marks lately for its ads. In late November, the company debuted its “If You’re Happy” spot, highlighting the different emotions — sadness, boredom, stress– that compel one to grab a snack. The spot is set to a rendition of the children’s song “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” According to data from research firm Ace Metrix, the 30-second version of “If You’re Happy” scored 17% above the norm for creative effectiveness for the health and fitness category among respondents who said they could stand to lose 10 pounds or more. Ace Metrix, which uses a sample of more than 500 people to score ads for traits such as persuasion, likeability and information, said weight-conscious respondents were drawn to the ad for its catchy tune and the familiarity of emotional eating scenarios.
For the first nine months of 2014, Nutrisystem has spent $153 million on measured media, about in line with the year-ago period’s spending, according to Kantar Media. Jenny Craig, meanwhile, has pulled back on its measured ad spending. The company has spent roughly $8 million on measured media for the first nine months of 2014, Kantar Media’s data shows, compared with $25 million in the prior-year period.
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