Is Weight Watchers really the biggest loser after its light bulb blunder?

While Weight Watchers has pulled any ad spend around its new Black offering following a light bulb stunt, Simon Canning argues the controversial sex-based campaign has probably inadvertently already achieved for the company.

Weight Watchers hit the headlines this week for all the wrong reasons, suffering a social media backlash accusing it of fat shaming after sending several female journalists light bulbs which might help improve their sex lives.

What could have been a bold and engaging campaign dealing with body image issues and the impact it has on the sex lives of thousands of people, instead looked to have turned into a ham-fisted attempt to grab some free column inches that led to the downfall of the campaign before it had even begun.

But is it actually a failure for Weight Watchers?


At the very heart of the apparent failure of WW Black was its introduction. When first introducing something, whether a person or a product, it is wise not to make suggestions about a person’s character or self worth.

The arrival of a bulb suggesting the recipient might not be as fit and trim as they would like to be and therefore has to have sex with the lights off was never going to end well, and the hoped for column inches with influencers turned into a torrent of tweets asking what were they thinking.


Further, the implication that overweight people couldn’t enjoy sex was an affront to the very target market Weight Watchers was aiming at.

Weight Watchers had used its research which showed a large percentage of women were so unhappy with their own appearance they did not want to have sex with the lights on, while a quarter of them avoided sex altogether, to inform the direction of the campaign.

With no context around the message the media coverage was fast and furious and within two days Weight Watchers had scrapped any further promotion of WW Black, effectively ditching the ad spend around what could have been an interesting campaign to differentiate the brand in a relatively homogenous market.

But Weight Watchers has left the supporting film by BMF, showing real members pondering their sex lives and how it is effected by their weight, live on its Youtube channel, and it’s already gained nearly 9,000 views after initially being pulled down and then reinstated.

The campaign was aimed squarely at triggering a national conversation about body image that would have taken the brand into new and uncharted territory. It’s certainly done that, even if much of the early critique was around fat shaming, courtesy of its bungled launch.

But in pulling above-the-line spend on the campaign perhaps Weight Watchers is not the biggest loser after all.

The ads actually remain on its Youtube channel and have garnered more views than the combined total for the rest of its videos from the last nine months already.

More importantly sources suggest traffic to the WW Black site and sign ups have been healthy. Arguably those pouring scorn on the campaign may not have been in its target market to begin with.

The campaign has achieved more column inches than it would otherwise have expected and the company gets to save on its planned media spend with the decision to stop active promotion.

While the launch of the campaign may have been botched, what looked like a dim idea at the outset may prove in hindsight to be very bright indeed.


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