Alley's latest star turn caps an unconventional marketing story. Most weight-loss companies hire spokespeople only after they have successfully shed pounds. But when Alley first approached Jenny Craig, she had just finished shooting her "Fat Actress" reality series, and told Oprah she weighed 219 pounds.
"She hadn't lost pound one when the first ad appeared." said Cozette Phifer, a spokesperson for the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company. "And she even used the F-word. It was the first time ever that we had someone go on camera and say, 'I'm fat and I want to lose weight.' We both had to take a leap of faith, and it was risky for her."
Since then, Alley's ongoing weight loss--about one to two pounds per week, until she reached her goal weight loss of 75 pounds last summer--has been the focus of Jenny Craig's ads, as well as the blog Alley writes for the corporate Web site. Consumers seem to love Alley's "progress, not perfection" message.
When she appeared on "Oprah" last spring, about 30 pounds into her weight loss, call volume to Jenny Craig increased 81 percent. The "Have you called Jenny yet?" ads, by J. Walter Thompson, New York, won an Effie last spring.
For Jenny Craig, peak membership periods are January, April (just before bathing suit season), and September, said Phifer. November and December are among the slowest periods. In addition to the new bikini ads, Alley is scheduled to appear in several magazine features.
Alley just signed on for another year, and Phifer said there are no plans for additional celebrity spokespeople.
"The maintenance message is just as important for people as the weight loss message," she said. "People want to know that when they take the weight off, they'll be able to keep it off."