Commentary

Weight Watchers Takes Aim At Beer-Chugging Males

Wall Street can't seem to get enough of Weight Watchers lately. The stock hit a new 52-week high yesterday, although The Street still rates it as a "hold" because of poor profit margins. TraderShuffle.com, which does one of those technical thingamajiggys with algorithms, proclaims that the stock closed at $78.59 "just above calculated resistance at $75.25, moving to what appears to be a new range."

All this because it's targeting men? One wonders.

EJ Schultz has a piece in Ad Age about Weight Watcher's first campaign ever that targets the male of the species, who have their own definitions of "calculated resistance." The $3.3 billion commercial weight-loss category is 90% female at present. Competitors Nutrisystem, with longtime spokesjocks Dan Marino and Don Shula, and Jenny Craig, which brought actor Jason Alexander aboard last year, have already been pursuing the males in ads.

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Weight Watchers actually launched a "men-only" website in 2007, and watching the success some men have had there "inspired us to think we have an opportunity here," says CMO Cheryl Callan. An embedded video with the Age piece of a fast-paced spot that broke during NBA playoff telecasts over the weekend shows some slimmed-down guys joshing around and being slimmed-down guys.

The spot pushes the website and digital apps rather than the meetings that are at the core of the company's business, and spotlights features such as a "Beer Cheat Sheet" that gives the point values of various brews. Writes Schultz: "The site is not 'rainbows and lollipops,' says one guy. Another spot tries to urge men that it takes more than working out to lose weight." Crunches alone won't do it, it seems. "Duh," as a guy might say. The $10 million effort is out of McCann Erickson.

But it's not just men who find the digital apps helpful. About.com weight loss guide Jennifer R. Scott wrote Sunday that when she went offline during a vacation, her diet went kaflooey.

"For some reason that I've yet to discover, sitting down at my computer and typing in all those foods and beverages and seeing their values on my screen made it 'real' to me; it made me feel like I absolutely had to be accountable," she writes.

Weight Watchers scrapped its old points system last year, replacing it with a new program called Points Plus. Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD explains on Web MD  that calories still count because the bottom line in weight loss is still burning more calories than you eat but the new program puts more focus on where those calories are coming from.

"Even when the calories are the same, protein- and fiber-rich foods get fewer Points Plus to encourage dieters to eat more filling food for their allotted Points Plus," she writes. "Calorie-dense foods that have more fat and simple carbs are assigned more points."

Weight Watchers spokeswoman Jennifer Hudson, meanwhile, is generating a little free publicity by claiming that her 80-pound weight loss since joining the Weight Watchers program has improved her singing voice. "When I was in high school, I could do (sing) the whole piano. Now I've lost weight, my voice is getting back to that same state," she said on a British TV show. Hudson tells AOL's Music blog that her slimmer image changed everything. "There's a whole lot more opportunities, people are more friendly," she says.

Another Weight Watchers spokeswoman of note, Sarah Ferguson, says that she is finally at peace after years of self-loathing about her weight, the Daily Mailreports. "'I love my hands and wrists and ankles and hair and eyes. I've got a really good waist and a great pair of bosoms. Plus the pins [legs] aren't bad," the Dutchess of York says of her size-12 figure.

The tabloids, for one, are ecstatic that Fergie can't seem to keep her mouth closed.

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