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TEN, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ... DIET

Don’t worry, Madison Avenue knows what is likely to be on your mind imminently, if not already. And it is prepared to bombard you with weight loss ideas even before the ball drops Monday night.

This year, both Weight Watchers and Special K are sponsoring electronic billboards in Times Square, the most televised (and, perhaps, densely populated) location on New Year’s Eve. Revelry, it seems, is all well and good, but self-improvement must never stray too far out of the picture.

The Kellogg Company, which makes the Special K brand, will take over three of the largest digital billboards in Times Square for two minutes starting at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31.

“That’s the biggest moment of self-evaluation of the year. We want to be part of the resolution,” said Per Jacobson, a creative director at Leo Burnett in Chicago, which created the ads. Leo Burnett is owned by the Publicis Groupe.

The first 60-second ad will appear on the ABC billboard starting one minute before midnight, and two more will appear on the Reuters and Nasdaq boards from midnight till 12:01. All three are promoting the Special K Challenge, a diet program developed four years ago that includes a range of Special K products — not just cereal, but also protein bars, waffles and protein water.

The campaign will continue throughout January with two 15-second television spots and near-total ad domination of New York’s Penn Station and Boston’s South Station.

“What we’ve learned is that women resolve to lose weight not just on New Year’s Eve, but throughout the whole month of January,” said Kim Miller, vice president for marketing for Kellogg’s morning foods division. “Even if they fall off track, they will re-commit. So we’re working hard to make sure we’re there at every point of recommitting.”

Central to the promotion is a partnership between Kellogg’s and Yahoo. Several of the ads ask consumers to search for “Special K Challenge” on Yahoo, which leads them to both www.SpecialK.com and a discussion group run by the search engine.

Visitors to the Special K site can create a custom two-week diet plan — consisting entirely of Special K products — by answering questions about their dieting challenges and food preferences. The discussion group lets users share their dieting experiences.

“In this day and age, it’s not enough to have your own message out there,” Mr. Jacobson said.

Jan. 1 will also mark the introduction of two new Special K products: mixed berry K20 Protein Water and cinnamon pecan cereal.

Not to be outdone, Weight Watchers International has introduced what it says is its biggest and most integrated ad campaign, and which also relies in part on the Reuters billboard in Times Square. Other components are television spots, print ads, an Internet video and a MySpace page.

The campaign’s tagline, “Stop Dieting. Start Living,” is meant to emphasize a more sensible approach to weight loss than the ever popular crash diet. The print ads, with headlines like “Go on a Diet Diet” and “Di*t,” will run through the first quarter of 2008 in publications ranging from entertainment magazines to Time and Newsweek.

Cheryl Callan, the director for marketing of Weight Watchers, said the company wants potential customers to “think in terms of a really successful path through a change in lifestyle and not through dieting.”

The campaign is the first created by McCann Erickson New York since it became Weight Watchers’s new agency this year. McCann is owned by the Interpublic Group.

The main trend in the weight loss market today is the emphasis on wellness rather than dieting, said Phil Lempert, the editor of supermarketguru.com and a food marketing and consumer trend consultant. This month Kraft Foods, a major competitor to Weight Watchers and the owner of the popular South Beach line of frozen diet foods, changed the name of the brand from South Beach Diet to South Beach Living.

“I think 2008 will be a pivotal year,” said Mr. Lempert, “and I think Weight Watchers going across platforms is intelligent because Weight Watchers is one of those brands that we think is our parents’ brand versus our brand.”

If the company can “reinvent themselves to be the brand of people who are between 18 and 35, they’ll hit a home run,” he predicted.

Lori Senecal, the head of McCann Erickson New York, said that the Weight Watchers system, with its support group meetings and balanced approach to nutrition, was a natural fit for the modern dieter. But, she said, the brand needed some updating.

To this end, the company is soliciting user-generated content. Through Jan. 25, people will be able to send stories to the Weight Watchers Web site about the strangest or craziest diets they have tried. Some will be chosen to appear on the billboard in Times Square.

Joyce King Thomas, chief creative officer of McCann Erickson New York, said that this type of interactivity, along with the MySpace page, is a modern take on the classic Weight Watchers group meeting. “There is already the community in Weight Watchers — it’s a lot about community, sharing recipes, sharing experiences — so we are just trying to make the community bigger,” she said.

In January, Weight Watchers will post a video called “The History of Dieting,” a compilation of old stock photos and montages of the faddish trends like the cabbage diet and the grapefruit diet, on the Internet.

Mr. Lempert, the supermarket consultant, said that digital media was the perfect way to get the attention of young consumers. “That’s the way the next generation will have these community diet experiences,” he said. “That’s going to be fabulous for them, but that’s the challenge — how do you take something so successful in the past and bring it in the future for today?”

 

From FMI

 

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2 Comments

admin's picture
Thank for reminding Steve:) We have featured a few healthy and practical recipes and videos on the front page. Do you know that traffic to diet sites triple on New Year day. With Regards, ifood.tv Admin
shantihhh's picture
I can vouch for Weight Watcher's Healthy Lefestyle! You can count points or eat from a list of Core Foods until satisfie-not full-just NOT hungry any more. It is a fabulous program whether on Core or Flex where you can eat anything you want but must limit thepoints per day! It is a healthy lifestylefor life. It isn't really a diet as it becomes a way of life making Healthy Choices. I have lost 36# and have not once felt like I was on a diet. BTW my story is featured in the January International mailing f Weight Watcher's, and if I can do it so can you! I am not paid by W, just sing it's praises ue to my sucess. I feel great! I weigh less than I have in 10 years! Shanti/Mary-Anne