an Ad a Day

A look at the marketing that surrounds us.

Weight Watchers: Lose Weight to Save the World?

Posted by Rosepixie on February 10, 2010

These are two commercials for a yearly Weight Watchers campaign called “Lose for Good”.

I was seriously creeped out by these ads.  I showed the first one to my husband to see if he shared my reaction and he did not, but he also had no idea what it was for (he assumed it was an ad asking people to donate food, and in that context he didn’t find it creepy).  When I told him what it was for, he agreed that it was kind of creepy, but mostly he felt that it was confusing, since he never would have guessed it had to do with weight loss.

My reaction was pretty visceral.  I was incredibly bothered by both of these ads.  I’m troubled that neither one says what they are for exactly, but the second ad makes it pretty clear.  I think it makes more sense to talk about them separately.

Ok, the first ad feels like a pretty generic “we’re all one big happy family, so let’s save the world” thing at first.  The problem is that it’s full of strange things that don’t make sense.  The idea of “balance” is nice, but when has the world ever known balance when it comes to everyone having… well… anything?  It asks went that happened as if it’s a new thing, but it’s not.  There were feudal lords and Chinese emperors with plenty to eat surrounded by starving peasants in the middle ages and before that there were Egyptian Pharaohs living in luxury and feeding beer to slaves while they worked them to death.  The world has never had “balance”.  It doesn’t work that way.  Even if everyone was inclined to share, there are famines and wars and religions and more reasons that people hate each other than reasons that they don’t most days.  All of this means that we can’t “get it back” because we never had it in the first place!

The second ad is just plain creepy to watch and carries so many disturbing overtones.  The clear people, one fat (and not even that fat) and the other thin, are kind of eerie at the beginning.  But that is their least eerie moment!  The idea of people pulling pieces off the fat person is pretty horrifying.  First, this clearly shows that the ad thinks there is something wrong with the fat person and that people pulling pieces off of it will help to “fix” it.  Now think about this.  Random people are literally pulling pieces off of a human figure from anywhere they feel it should loose some pieces.  Granted, this person is made of tape, but still…  And then they take the pieces they pulled off of the fat person and put them onto the thin person, because clearly it needs “fixing” too.  Eventually, after parts of the fat body have been forcibly removed and transfered to the thin body, they are the same shape.  And then, the commercial tells us, they are right.  The idea of transferring fat from people to other people is really pretty disgusting by itself, even outside of how insulting it is to people outside of the “right” shape.  Do we really all want to look the same?  And don’t point out skin color or whatever – these are skin-colorless people and they are exactly the same.  It reminded me of Barbie and her friends,who have all different skin colors and hair styles and yet all have exactly the same body.

And all of this comes back to the message running through both ads: that “you” losing weight will help the world.  Think about that statement.  It says not only that your weight somehow has baring on the state of the world (which is a pretty incredible statement to make), but also that by losing weight you would improve the world.  That implies that by not losing weight, that the weight “you” have now, is hurting the world or at least somehow contributing to what’s wrong with it.  Does that seem like a helpful or positive message in ANY WAY?  Because I can’t figure out any way that it could be!

I appreciate companies that decide to donate to charities and help “give back” somehow, but I have a big problem with programs like this that do it by spreading harmful messages and being unclear about how they are actually helping at all.  I do think that Weight Watchers could run a good charitable program, but this isn’t a good way to do it.  This is atrocious and I had thought better of Weight Watchers.

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One Response to “Weight Watchers: Lose Weight to Save the World?”

  1. In our business we can sometimes thin we know it all, but after reading this I can see I have much to learn. 🙂

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