New Spots Find Fit With Gold’s Gym, Franchisees

A year after a campaign starring caustic comic Lewis Black was rejected by Gold’s Gym franchisees, leading to an agency shift, the fitness chain is set to launch its first TV work since 1999 with five spots from Colby & Partners that continue efforts to update and unify its image.

“We asked Colby to give us work that was both aspirational and inspirational, with an emotional tone,” said Derek Barton, svp of marketing at Venice, Calif.-based Gold’s. At the same time, Gold’s sought a straightforward approach that would “use our members and show what’s inside the gym,” said Barton.

The 670-unit chain, once associated with Muscle Beach mesomorphs, has been sculpting a less-intimidating image as a gym for both sexes that offers group activities and modern machines [Adweek, June 9, 2003].

The spots from the Santa Monica, Calif., Dentsu shop feature gold, animated title graphics that stretch, bulge, ricochet around the screen, rise and fall like weights being lifted, and drip like sweat. Three commercials use a techno-pop soundtrack, while two use a cinema-verité-like format with natural sound.

Against a montage of exercisers, copy in one ad reads, “No other place takes all you’ve got … and gives back more.” A spot called “Real Facts” showcases whimsical statistics, with one claiming that Gold’s Gym members “lose 44,000 pounds of body fat a day.” Another spot suggests motivations for joining. (“Member since: She asked for my friend’s number.”)

Two other executions strike a more serious pose, with one ending with the message, “Not everyone will reach their true potential … just those who seek it.” Another tells the story of a woman who stayed fit despite a dire medical prognosis. The spots use a tagline that Barton devised years ago: “It all starts here.”

Spending is up to franchisees, who, according to Barton and Colby executives, applauded the spots “during and after” screenings. Gold’s corporate hopes to get franchisees to more than double the $244 per month they pony up to the national ad pool.

Gold’s spent about $2 million on advertising last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus—far less than category leader Bally Total Fitness, which spent about $65 million. Recent ads were produced regionally by franchisee groups, which have spent up to $25 million per year, Barton said. That has led to creative chaos and brand erosion for a chain covering 43 states and 25 countries.

An attempt to sell a national campaign last year went nowhere. Henderson Advertising in Greenville, S.C., which won the account in June 2003, presented work featuring comedian and Daily Show regular Lewis Black as the “conscience” of slugabeds and procrastinators.

“It was polarizing, as many great campaigns are,” said Dan Moore, Henderson account director. “There was division among the franchisees, the marketing department and the owners. They either loved it or hated it.”

The negative voices prevailed. Henderson was out by November, when Colby took over.

“Bally and 24-Hour Fitness are more about meeting people and looking sexy,” said Rick Colby, the shop’s president and executive creative director. “Underlying everything here is that Gold’s represents serious fitness. We’re not trying to get away from the image of bodybuilding and Arnold [Schwarzenegger], but building on it.”