After ending its short-lived relationship with Wieden + Kennedy in early 2015, top diet brand Weight Watchers has chosen Havas Worldwide as its newest creative agency partner after an extensive review.
Weight Watchers' svp of marketing, Maurice Herrera, told Adweek, "We have engaged Havas Worldwide in the U.S. to develop work for a winter 2016 advertising campaign aimed at driving member recruitment and bringing to life our new program innovation." He added, "We chose Havas based on their deep strategic insight and an ability to develop a broad range of creative work in a highly collaborative manner."
Sources confirm that the review, which was announced in March, continued throughout the summer. The final two candidates were Havas and The Martin Agency.
The company's decision to switch shops followed W+K's "If You're Happy" campaign, which aired during Super Bowl XLIX and framed dietary challenges as a matter of psychological and behavioral compulsion while reminding consumers that "Our relationship with food is complicated. Weight Watchers is here to help with the hard part." The work marked a dramatic departure from previous U.S.-based campaigns.
Weight Watchers has been reconsidering its marketing options since it dropped Wieden, which took over for McCann without a review in April 2014 just as the brand announced that it would be moving away from its long-term focus on celebrity spokespeople like Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Hudson. (Weight Watchers has often run more emotionally resonant campaigns in international markets.) After parting ways with W+K, the company turned to New York's DiMassimo Goldstein to run its spring campaigns, but at the time, spokespeople emphasized it wasn't an agency-of-record relationship and that the search for a lead creative partner would continue.
The 2015 review also followed a major executive change at Weight Watchers, as North American president Lesya Lysyj, who worked with Wieden + Kennedy in her previous job as CMO of Heineken USA, departed. Before leaving the company, Lysyj told reporters about her plans to shift toward more positive messaging in an attempt to regain lost market share. At the time, she said, "We looked like every other offering out there so we really had to change how we are communicating to customers," positioning the W+K work as an example of the new approach.
Weight Watchers marks the second recent big-name win for Havas, which picked up Kmart's business last month. The agency has also made several additions to its leadership team this fall: It signed former BBDO New York ecd Toygar Bazarkaya to serve as its chief creative officer for the Americas, rehired Matt Howell as its global chief digital officer and promoted executive creative directors Jason Musante and Israel Garber after hiring new group creative directors to work on the Dos Equis and TD Ameritrade accounts, among others.
Weight Watchers declined to elaborate on the scope of its relationship with Havas beyond Herrera's remarks and did not provide insight into the direction of coming campaigns. An agency spokesperson deferred to the client for comment.
According to Kantar Media, Weight Watchers spends approximately $150 million on measured media each year, with a budget of $65 million for the first half of 2015.