Bradley Nickel

Online Marketing Guy |

10 min read

What We Can Learn From How the Top Weight Loss Advertisers Manage Their Campaigns

The bigger your advertising budget, the better. More money means more flexibility to choose where you advertise and how you target your audience. You don’t have to pick and choose advertising channels based on cost—you can pick them based on what’s most relevant to your target audience.

But having a big budget isn’t without its drawbacks. Whether your budget is big or small, you have to figure out the best way to spend it. A bigger budget means you have far more options to choose from, and you have to do more cost-benefit analysis before getting started.

And you have to think even more about:

  • Where you’re going to advertise. Does your audience spend more time on social media, or surfing the web?
  • What types of ads you’ll run. Will you focus on PPC search ads, display ads, or social ads?
  • How to spend your budget. How much will you spend on ad networks?

Without good answers to these questions, your big budget won’t help you get more new customers.

But there’s good news: Lots of large advertisers have figured out how to successfully allocate their big budgets, and luckily there’s a lot we can learn from them. For example, some weight-loss advertisers, like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and Nutrisystem, have gotten creative and figured out how to use their budgets to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Here’s a breakdown of how each of these companies spends their budget and what we can learn from them to increase acquisition.

Weight-Loss Companies Use Targeted Ad Campaigns to Increase Their Reach

You don’t have to look far to find weight-loss products and programs. Whether you’re surfing the web, watching TV, or riding the train, you’re going to see ads for different apps, fitness trackers, budget gyms, weight-loss clinics, weight-loss supplements, and meal-planning services.

Weight-loss is one of the biggest and most profitable markets today. As of 2017, it was worth an estimated $66 billion.

Part of the reason it’s such a big market is that the vast majority of people want two things:

But with so many options available, it’s hard for people to know which approach to use and where to start. Do they join a gym and get a personal trainer? Do they subscribe to a meal-planning service? Or do they skip all of that and have surgery?

Because of the numerous options, companies have to use their budgets to design advertising campaigns that get them in front of the right people, based on their chosen niche.

Fortunately, there are some companies that have made a mark and have become mainstays in the market. If we look at the meal-plan weight-loss companies out there — Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, and Weight Watchers — we’ll see that even though they compete with new digital tech such as apps and fitness trackers, they’ve found a way to use their budgets to stand out and speak to the specific needs of their target audience.

Let’s look at how their budgets compare, what types of ads they run, how they distribute them, and what we can learn from all of this.

Jenny Craig

Started in 1983, Jenny Craig Inc. helps people lose weight by giving them access to nutritious meals and a dedicated personal consultant.

To compete within the changing weight-loss marketplace, Jenny Craig has a sizable budget — figures from 2009 were nearly $34 million — to make sure ads get in front of their target audience.

Here’s how they spend their budget.

Ad Networks Used

Jenny Craig uses lots of networks to help get its ads seen. However, the majority of their ad network budget — approximately $639K — is spent on two main networks: Google and Outbrain.

Focusing on these two networks allows Jenny Craig to do two things:

  • Generate ads that appear in Google when people search for related weight-loss terms
  • Use native advertising to appear on sites their target audience spends time on

Publishers Used

To compete against companies that target millennials with fitness trackers, apps, and fad diets, Jenny Craig has partnered with Curves to target a slightly different demographic. The company’s main audience is composed of men and women over the age of 35.

Ideally, this audience has already tried different apps and fitness trackers and hasn’t seen any results. The Jenny Craig and Curves collaboration gives this group a well-rounded diet and fitness solution.

To target this group of customers, Jenny Craig uses publishers like U.S. News & World Report and ESPN. This targeting is on point because the majority of U.S. News visitors, for example, are older than 35.

Types of Ads

Jenny Craig spends most of its advertising budget on ads that showcase customers who’ve lost a lot of weight in a short time. This tactic means that social proof works to sell their weight-loss program.

Most of the ads they run are a mix of HTML5 and image ads that either call out how much weight customers can lose quickly or how little the program costs.

Landing Pages

The landing pages for these ads — and most landing pages on the site — focus on:

  • How little the program plans cost and how much weight people can lose
  • Special offers that help customers save on meal plans

They tie in perfectly with the ads themselves because they reinforce the weight-loss message presented in the ads by showing real people who’ve seen results. By including a before and after picture of customers, along with the consultants who helped, the ads highlight how Jenny Craig makes its customers successful.

This layout is powerful because it doesn’t just tell customers what to expect, it shows them. It’s a little like a visual testimonial, which works because more people respond to visual prompts than purely text prompts.

Where Ads Appear

The highest ad spend is on desktop, which might be due to the target audience. Gen X and baby boomers spend less time on their mobile devices than millennials do. This means ads appear where the target audience is most likely to see them.


Nutrisystem is similar to Jenny Craig in that it provides nutritious meals to customers. But that’s where the similarities end. Whereas Jenny Craig offers plans for 12 weeks or 12 months, Nutrisystem offers four-week plans. On top of that, they also offer specialized plans for men, vegetarians, and people with diabetes.

Their budget for ads is over $297 million based on figures from 2009. Here’s how they spend it.

Ad Networks Used

The majority of their $660K ad network budget is spent on Google and Direct Buy. With Direct Buy, Nutrisystem can buy ad space directly from any publishers and networks they choose to use. This gives them flexibility on where their ads are placed and what the ads look like from a creative standpoint.

Publishers Used

Nutrisystem caters to women — 70% of its customer base are women. As a result, most of the publishers they work with are geared toward women.

For example, ads appear on online spaces like Cosmo, Good Housekeeping, and Woman’s Day.

Types of Ads

Seventy percent of Nutrisystem ads are image-based, with a lot of focus placed on their spokesperson, Marie Osmond. These ads also highlight the fact that customers can save 40% off of the program.

You’ll also notice that the ads emphasize how much weight customers have already lost and the opportunity for new customers to improve their health.

Ads also have obvious CTAs that stand out in contrast to the rest of the ad image. For example, these CTA buttons are orange and stand out against the reds and purples in the ads.

Landing Pages

Nutrisystem’s ad landing pages do two things really well:

  • They reiterate the amount of weight customers can lose quickly, and they highlight a specific program package — Turbo 13. The page gets viewers excited about all of the benefits of the programs and free products, and the CTAs are clear.
  • They position Nutrisystem as a partner in weight loss by offering a free diet analysis and custom report. This tool isn’t just a lead magnet; it also gives site visitors who are unsure of whether they need the program a place to start.

Together, these two components serve to get potential customers excited about the program and the outcomes, and they offer a tool to help people take an additional step and start their weight-loss journey.

Where Ads Appear

Similar to Jenny Craig, most of Nutrisystem’s ad budget is spent on desktop to cater to their older, female target audience.

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers offers a slightly different program than the first two programs and has seen huge benefits. The program — Freestyle — lets customers eat what they want and track the SmartPoints for the foods they eat. No more counting calories; this is weight-loss made easy. This way, customers can eat the foods they enjoy but stay within the allowed SmartPoints “budget.”

Weight Watchers is aware of how much time customers spend online — as well as competition within the market — and gives customers two plan options to choose from:

  • Plan 1: A combination of weekly meetings and an online companion tool
  • Plans 2: Just the online companion tool

To convert leads to customers, Weight Watchers spends about $117 million on advertising based on 2009 reports. Their overall marketing budget has dropped, but they’ve homed in on digital marketing and become more particular about where they advertise. Here’s the breakdown.

Ad Networks Used

Weight Watchers spends most of its $366K ad network budget on Direct Buy. They also use Amazon Advertising, but to a lesser extent. Both of these networks give Weight Watchers more flexibility on where their ads appear. For example, with Amazon Advertising, Weight Watchers can use display ads for their Freestyle program so that they appear on desktop or mobile while customers browse Amazon.

Publishers Used

Weight Watchers focuses on more than just weight loss. Their new advertising campaign aims to help customers lead a more healthy lifestyle. This is why so many of Weight Watchers’ ads appear on medical publication websites like WebMD and Medicine Net.

One surprising publisher on their list is Oprah’s site. Weight Watchers advertises there because Oprah’s a board member and an investor. Sometimes, she even appears in their ads to share her experience using Weight Watchers.

Types of Ads

Most ads are either HTML5 or image based. They focus on Weight Watchers’ Freestyle program that lets customers eat what they want and live a healthier lifestyle. These ads don’t always include a spokesperson, but they use aspirational images of women to get potential customers excited to join.

Landing Pages

The landing pages for Weight Watcher ads remind viewers of the benefits — online access, weekly meetings, and personal coaching. This is a different approach from its competitors that focus on how much weight customers can lose in a short time — or free products and discounted programs.

Plus, to compete with all of the apps available on the market, Weight Watchers’ landing pages also highlight their app and how it works to keep customers on track to meet their weight-loss goals.

There’s even a section that focuses on Oprah’s weight-loss journey, which offers a mix of influencer marketing and a customer testimonial.

Where Ads Appear

While most of their budget is spent on desktop advertising, mobile advertising isn’t that far behind. This makes sense, considering that Weight Watchers offers an online weight-loss option. So while people are browsing on mobile and see a Weight Watchers ad, it’s easy for them to sign up on their mobile device and get started right away.

Before You Begin Your Next Campaign . . .

Each of these companies stands out in the weight-loss market. They’ve each approached their advertising campaigns in a unique way, and their success shows that they’re spending on the right combination of networks, publishers, and ad creative.

Here’s what you can learn from them to help you spend your budget on channels with the most ROI and attract as many new customers as possible.

Focus on Solving One Specific Problem

Each of these companies offers some form of meal planning, but they all focus on addressing a specific customer concern:

  • Jenny Craig ads focus on making weight loss easy by creating plans for customers to follow.
  • Nutrisystem ads focus on making weight-loss programs accessible by highlighting special offers.
  • Weight Watchers ads focus on promoting a flexible and healthy lifestyle.

For your part, figure out one thing your audience wants to accomplish, and then make sure that your advertising campaign makes your solution clear. Use bold text, clear CTAs, and images of people enjoying themselves while using your product.

Use Social Proof

Whether it’s celebrity endorsements or testimonials from average, everyday customers, each company uses this to influence their target audiences buying behaviors.

With a large budget, you can afford influencer marketing; just keep in mind who you choose needs to be relatable. This needs to be someone your customers can see themselves in and can respect their opinions.

Alternatively, you can ask current customers for testimonials and include them on your site or ad landing pages. Get creative and add a video to your site of people talking about their experience with your product. Testimonials help convince people on the fence to choose you because they respect the opinions of people similar to them.

Focus Budget on Two Main Networks

These companies use multiple networks, but often times the focus is on two. The networks they choose typically correspond to the publishers they use. For example, Weight Watchers uses the Amazon Advertising Platform to get in front of their audience and advertises on Amazon, which gets the programs in front of their specific target audiences.

One way to maximize your budget here is to experiment before committing to your top two networks. Test out multiple options, and check where your traffic and conversions are coming from. Allocate a small part of your budget, and distribute evenly among the networks you choose.

Based on the data you collect — views, clicks, conversions, etc. — home in on the top two performing networks. These are likely the ones from which you’ll get the most audience engagement. Continue to use other networks to spread your ads so that you catch target audience members who might not be reached through the main networks you use.

Run segmentation to understand where your audience spends time

All three companies we looked at put a considerable amount of focus on desktop advertising. This is because of the demographic they targeted and where they know their audience hangs out.

It’s worth noting that all of the companies we looked at have apps so that they can compete with other weight-loss programs. Just because apps aren’t their main focus doesn’t mean they should ignore this avenue completely. The benefit is that there will be customers who like the programs these companies offer but will want a convenient option to stay committed to their weight loss.

To find out where your audience spends time, there are a few tactics you can try. Check your Google Analytics to see where traffic to your site is coming from, and check how much engagement you have on social media platforms; if you have an email newsletter, include links to different kinds of sites — like medical or fitness — and track which links email subscribers click on. The content they’re interested in might be an indication of the types of places they’ll visit on their own.

Use your landing page to reiterate how you plan to solve an issue and offer additional value

Each of the landing pages of these weight-loss companies has a specific focus that corresponds to what issues customers want help with. Based on what you learn about your target audience, keep their needs as the focus of your advertising campaign. Be specific — like if your product is low cost and premium quality, say that — because you’re targeting specific people with specific needs. This will help you stand out from competitors who are similar but don’t offer the exact solution customers want.

Like Nutrisystem, you can offer a tool that also acts as a lead magnet so that you can follow up with leads again. Or you can do what Weight Watchers did and use a celebrity endorsement as a testimonial.

The focus you choose has to speak to your solution so that it’s clear — like Jenny Craig’s “lose 16 lbs for $16” — how you plan to help your customers. With Jenny Craig customers, it’s clear to customers that not only can they lose weight but they also don’t have to spend a fortune doing it.

Bradley Nickel

Online Marketing Guy |

1 Comment

  1. Seriously learned new things after reading it. I am doing really good on paid traffic. But sometimes i get less ROI because of the shit product landing page.



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