Ad of the Day: Weight Watchers’ Remarkable Film Asks Why People Gain Pounds in the First Place

Thoughtful testimonials via filmmaker Gary Tarn

It's hard to make weight loss testimonials feel like anything other than hackneyed or seedy, preying upon the audience's insecurities to shame them into looking a certain way.

But a new six-minute documentary-style ad from Weight Watchers in the U.K. and filmmaker Gary Tarn manages to render the genre into something more beautiful and intimate, through a mix of gorgeous camera work and a focus on why people put on pounds in the first place—and naturally, what inspired them to get back in shape.

Anabel Bonner started stress-eating as a child when her parents got divorced. As a young bride preparing for her wedding, she decided to pursue a particular aesthetic—fitting into the kind of dress she wanted became a guiding star for her weight loss program.

Caroline Kulemeka found herself gaining pounds after eating junk food at her desk, and, unhappy with the scenario, used it to discover a love of running.

Nigel Johnson, on a trip to Disney World, couldn't fit into the restraints on his favorite ride, setting him on a course of action that saw him lose a stunning 140 pounds, and found a much different man looking back in the (gym) mirror.

Dee Edgar got swept up in the demands of raising a family, but with some nudging from her own mother (the kind of thing that could really go both ways), lost the weight again.

None of those examples might seem particularly novel. The ad still deals in clichés, as life sometimes does. But Tarn, the force behind 2005's Black Sun, succeeds in making the stories all seem both personal, and credible.

That's important because, despite the brand's clear agenda, its opportunity also lies in empowering viewers to believe they have control over their own bodies, and might be able to change their habits to ultimately feel better about themselves. It's effective because it's dramatic—larger than life—but also actually useful. Someone in the audience might realize that he or she should seek a clear goal (like Anabel's wedding dress) or explore new forms of exercise (like Caroline's running) to see what clicks. These aren't just before-and-after photos; they're real, relatable people living complicated lives that sometimes put them through the wringer.

To be fair, the result is still plenty reductive. The approaches Weight Watchers lays out here won't necessarily work the same for everyone. It's easer for some people to gain and lose weight than others. And what it means to be healthy, including self-esteem, isn't the same across different types of bodies.

In other words, by advertising around conventional notions of beauty in the first place, Weight Watchers can't help but be predatory, to some degree. But at least it's trying to be something more, too.


Client: Weight Watchers

Director and Composer: Gary Tarn

Production Agency: The Academy PR

Exposure: Online, PR