Weight Watchers Draws Advertisers

A yearlong sweepstakes touting the new fashion-forward image of Weight Watchers Magazine reaches its culmination this week as the publication rewards one of the contest entrants with a $25,000 shopping spree in New York.

Weight Watchers asked 3,000 marketing and media executives to guess which of 12 Ford models would grace its January 1999 cover, and more than a third of the recipients mailed in their ballots. The magazine, which was bought by Southern Progress Corp., Birmingham, AL, in 1995 from H.J. Heinz Co., New York, mailed ballots in late November.

“The message we were trying to put across … is that although we are not a classic beauty-fashion magazine, we are in the beauty-fashion business,” said publisher Jeff Ward. “Our reader is interested in improving her looks and her outlook. And she is very involved in the concept of makeover, and the concept of beauty and the concept of fashion.”

Weight Watchers' advertisers and potential advertisers received a paper game piece picture of one of the models each month over the course of 1998, along with a quote on how she stays in shape. The publication handled all aspects of the $250,000 campaign internally, including creative work. Ward credits the campaign for drawing a host of first-time advertisers, including makers of skincare products, color cosmetics, shoes and clothing.

Since its sale, the magazine's editorial content has shifted more to fashion-related articles. Weight Watchers' editorial breakout now makes up about 30 percent beauty-fashion, 30 percent food, 20 percent fitness and 20 percent “inspiration,” which includes informational features and success stories.

“A full 30 percent beauty-fashion is actually a higher percent editorial than most of the classic beauty-fashion magazines have,” Ward said.

Weight Watchers enticed sweepstakes entrants with a shopping spree in New York's Bloomingdale's department store. The magazine's editorial staff picked winning model Jennifer Kusner because she is a “beautiful, fresh person who a lot of women can relate to,” said marketing manager Betsey Hummel, who oversaw the campaign. Of the more than 1,000 respondents, only 56 chose Kusner.

Over the course of the campaign, Weight Watchers used its field representatives to gauge the “buzz effect” of the promotion. The magazine gave sales representatives cameras midway through the year so they could photograph the different ways offices around the country were using the boards.

“It was great because whenever our sales reps were in offices, they could see the boards up and hear the stories of people getting excited about it and even creating pools in their offices,” Hummel said.

The sweepstakes winner, National Car advertising manager Beth Henning of Toyota Motor Sales USA, Torrance, CA, flies to New York to reap her riches on Jan. 20. The automotive sector is an area that Weight Watchers targeted heavily during the campaign. Meanwhile, Henning has been combing the Los Angeles Bloomingdale's to decide how she'll spend her $25,000.

“I called my husband as soon as I got off the phone. I said, 'Think of all the things we can get. What would you like?' He was like, 'I need some new socks.' I said, 'OK. I think we can handle that,' ” Henning said.

Looking into 1999, the magazine hopes to attract more advertisers with a $300,000 awareness-building campaign that will use print ads in trade publications. The first spots run in February.

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