Weight Watchers' new ad campaign, WWBlack, backfired almost instantaneously after it rolled out in Australia and New Zealand last week.
The campaign, which puts the focus on sex, came with an early gift to reporters: A "mood light" lightbulb that you're meant to screw in before you and your partner, um, screw.
Bridie Jabour, an editor at The Guardian, tweeted a photo of the package and its accompanying ad copy, which has rightfully drawn ire for its implications about weight and sex.
How many people thought this was an okay idea before it arrived on my desk as a piece of PR pic.twitter.com/7tH37yyqsS— Bridie Jabour (@bkjabour) October 14, 2016
"Let’s be honest for a minute, sex is pretty damn fantastic," the copy reads. "But if you’ve ever felt self-conscious in the sack you’re not alone — we’ve heard that more than half of women have avoided sex because they were worried about how they look."
The copy starts off innocently enough — after all, a lot of us have probably felt self-conscious during sex. However, the ad goes on to explain that the lightbulb is meant to give you a "little boost in the bedroom (a PG sex toy, if you will)."
"We hope it helps you start seeing yourself in a new light — to love how you look and love how you feel," the ad says.
Which, okay: For one thing, women don't need a dieting company to "help" them feel better about themselves, and for another, this ad seems to suggest that women who are overweight naturally hate their bodies (or should hate their bodies), and obviously want to change or obscure them in order to be able to actually enjoy sex.
Needless to say, people were rightfully pissed off about the campaign's implications.
Weight Watchers Black campaign seems to involve marketing the idea fat ppl don't have optimal sex lives & would if they lost weight— Asher Wolf (@Asher_Wolf) October 14, 2016
Weight Watchers' senior marketing manager, Rebecca Melville, told Mumbrella that it was a "mistake" to send the lightbulbs, but not for the reasons we would hope. "As we launched, we launched in stages and that has fuelled the conversation without context," she said.
In this particular ad campaign, the company has essentially tried to present a solution to insecurities and body hangups that many people experience. But instead of presenting that solution as loving our bodies, period, Weight Watchers has tapped into our insecurities to shame us into changing the way we look. And the company manages to do this while at the same time suggesting that to enjoy sex more, all we have to do is lose weight (which is so incredibly false).
It should be noted that Weight Watchers has had a contested relationship with the idea of body positivity. In August, the company launched a body-positive initiative that, now more than ever, feels hollow. After all, it's a bit hypocritical for a company to embrace empowerment and body positivity when it sees fit, but then turn around and shame people by encouraging them to lose weight to solve their problems.
Moral of the story? Weight loss and "mood" lighting are not replacements for loving your body and having compassion for yourself, no matter what a diet company is trying to sell you.
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