A few weeks back, on February 8th, Weight Watchers announced its new marketing campaign to the public. The campaign they announced offered their Weight Watchers program for free for six weeks during the summer, specifically for teens as young as 13 years old.
With celebrity endorsements from people such as Oprah Winfrey, DJ Khaled and many more, the company is aiming to use the powerful influence of these celebrities to encourage teens to join the program. Not only are they using powerful figures to encourage teens to join, they are also sending a message that “some bodies are problems and if you’re at a higher weight, your body needs to be fixed.”
This immediately sparked outrage in the media and especially on Twitter where people showed their anger for the company and for the celebrities who endorse the company. Balance , an eating disorder treatment facility immediately started a hashtag #wakeupweightwatchers which quickly became trending in the US. Many are worried that instead of promoting health, the new weightwatchers program for teens will promote them to engage in eating disorder behaviors.
In an LA Times article multiplewoman came forward to tell about their experiences using weight watchers as adults and as teens. The responses they gave are all extremely negative as they recall the “diet” that led them to spiral out of control and turn to unhealthy habits to lose the weight, which they quickly gained back anyways.
With the huge amount of backlash it received, Weight Watchers did finally put out a statement on its Weight Watcher’s Twitter account. The statement read that they hear the complaints from the NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) and they take their “responsibility seriously.” They went on to acknowledge that teen years are critical and they will be providing a program that helps them to lead healthier habits, “not a diet.” The last sentence of the Tweet goes on to say that they will continue to be in contact with healthcare professionals in order to launch the program this summer.
This is the only response that Weight Watchers has put out since they announced this new campaign and people are not pleased with their response. They acknowledged that people see this campaign as an issue yet they did not really address that issue besides saying they will keep in contact with health officials. On top of that, none of the brand ambassadors have come forward to respond to anything, which has caused outrage. Many were surprised that Oprah Winfrey not only backed this campaign, but has also not commented on the aftermath.
The announcement of this new Weight Watchers Teen program created a media firestorm for the company and has caused many to turn their backs on it and the celebrities who endorse it. Although they put a statement out on Twitter, they did not respond in the way many were hoping. This new campaign brought a lot of negative attention to the company and I can almost guarantee that it is not over yet.