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Oprah Winfrey and Weight Watchers Try Again

Weight Watchers debuted its new advertising campaign with Oprah Winfrey recently. I first saw it during New Year’s week – that sacred time of the year when we collectively don our metaphorical hairshirts in the form of weight loss resolutions.

“This time,” we think, “will be different.” Never mind the multiple weight loss plans you engaged in the past year.

“This time,” we think, “it will work.” Never mind the fact that you’ve vowed this to yourself continually over the decades.

What is so different about this time from all the other this times you have dared hope?

And apparently, Oprah Winfrey also believes this time will be different. She is a powerful woman, to say the least. She has traveled in the circles of President Obama and Nelson Mandela. She reportedly made Pope Francis’ shortlist of guests to discuss the church’s portrayal in western media.

And yet, she’s just like you. She views her weight as the greatest obstacle she needs to conquer.

She has more money than almost anyone on the planet…but she’s just like you.

She has the power to effect positive change around the world… but she’s just like you.

Just like you, she is seduced by the $60-billion weight loss industry.

Oprah Winfrey has enough money to buy a good chunk of the entire weight loss industry, and so she did. In October of 2015, she purchased 10% of Weight Watchers. She’s now a power player in the weight loss industry even as she’s one of its roller-coaster casualties.

Here’s the lowdown of the latest ad campaign (which has already boosted Weight Watchers’ stock): Oprah Winfrey’s debut Weight Watchers ad will tug at your heartstrings. Not coincidentally, it adopts the language of monumental human struggle. The kind of language that would inspire us if it were spoken by a president leading us through a crisis. The kind of language we would quote ad nauseam if delivered by a beloved actor in blockbuster movie:

So every time I tried and failed.

Every time I tried again.

And every time I tried again,

Has brought me to this, most powerful, moment.

To say, if not now, when?

Here, the weight loss industry’s dismal statistics are framed as a monumental, heroic battle. This is a battle that is assumed to be winnable, if you try enough times. And each time you fail, you must just try that much harder next time. It is some of the most brilliant marketing in an arena that has already trained us to credit the weight loss plan when we lose weight in the short run; and blame ourselves when we regain that weight (and maybe even more).

It’s a win-win battle for the weight loss industry. And a lose-lose battle for us.

Please, let’s choose more meaningful battles.

Overview of Oprah’s New Weight Watchers Journey

[Visual Text] Why I Joined Weight Watchers

Inside every overweight woman (pause)

[Visual: Oprah speaking]

Is a woman she knows she can be.

[Visual: grainy, slow motion footage of her waving at camera.]

Many times, you look in the mirror and you don’t even recognize your own self.

[Visual: Oprah speaking]

Because you’ve gotten lost.

Buried…In the weight that you carry.

[Visual: Grainy slow-motion image of Oprah on an exercise machine, outside in the sunlight.]

Nothing you’ve ever been through is wasted.

[Visual: Oprah speaking]

So every time I tried and failed.

[Visual: Grainy slow-motion footage of Oprah jogging.]

Every time I tried again.

And every time I tried again,

[Visual: “weightwatchers” graphic is revealed, from left to right. “weightwatchers” appears to have sunrays emanating from the words.]

Has brought me to this, most powerful, moment. To say,

[Visual: Oprah talking]

If not now, when? (She shakes her head slightly for emphasis.)

I feel that way, and I know millions of other people feel that way.

Are you ready? Let’s do this together.

[Visual: Weight Watchers logo]