Why the Weight-Loss Industry Is Starting to Use More Male Celebs as Spokespeople

Rob Lowe and DJ Khaled encourage healthier lifestyles

DJ Khaled is adopting a healthier lifestyle to be a better role model for his son. Weight Watchers
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Diets: They’re not just for gals anymore! And by the way, it’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle.

There are major changes afoot in the weight-loss industry, with many marketers focusing on health and wellness, rather than calories, scales, inches and tape measures.

And two powerful brands, Atkins and Weight Watchers, have recently taken the unusual, stereotype-busting step of hiring men as spokescelebs.

The preternaturally youthful Rob Lowe will spend 2018 as the face of the Atkins “Life Well Lived” campaign, and recording artist-producer DJ Khaled has become Weight Watchers’ first social media ambassador.

While marketing execs don’t expect the infamous before-and-after-style ads or fat shaming to disappear entirely, they say tactics have evolved to become more inclusive and realistic.

“Diet is like a word out of the ’80s now, and it represents a short-term, highly restrictive approach,” said Scott Parker, CMO at Atkins Nutritionals, who recruited Lowe as the brand’s first male spokesman after the star’s public comments about eating “the Atkins way,” a low-carb, low-sugar, high-protein plan. “People want to make simple choices they can sustain. And the message is more holistic these days than, ‘Get a bikini body.’”

In the new Atkins anthem spot, from Acme Idea Co., Lowe emphasizes feeling good, being active and living well. The images shown are parents having fun with their kids. What Lowe never mentions: losing weight. That’s because he didn’t, which also makes him a rarity in an industry known for choosing celebrities who have noticeably trimmed down.

Atkins wanted to appeal to its core audience looking to drop pounds, but also to consumers who are striving for a healthier lifestyle, Parker said, noting that hiring the popular Lowe will help “normalize and contemporize” the brand and speak to a broad demographic, both male and female.

Weight Watchers, meanwhile, has brought on Khaled, a multi-hyphenate star who counts well over 16 million social media followers. He’s reportedly lost 20 pounds already, stressing that he wants to get healthy for his young son.

Oprah Winfrey, a spokeswoman and 10-percent company stakeholder, welcomed him on Twitter, resulting in an 8 percent jump in Weight Watchers’ stock price.

Khaled, a frequent brand collaborator, plans to document his weight-loss journey across his busy social media accounts, with Weight Watchers’ execs saying he “can authentically show how the program works for his life and how it’s making a meaningful difference to him and his family.”

By putting men front and center, brands may be trying to target more males in an industry that’s spoken primarily to women, but it also shows “we’re all in this together,” said Jane Buckingham, CEO and forecaster at Trendera. “There’s a universality to hiring men, and it’s pretty groundbreaking. It shows that this isn’t just a female issue.”

Others in the weight-loss business, estimated to be worth $66 billion in the U.S., are embracing the unorthodox, with Equinox Fitness recently launching one-of-a-kind luxury goods “inspired by the passion and persistence of some of the most committed people and organizations on earth.” Its items, such as cologne infused with the DNA of a marathoner, aren’t for sale to the general public. They’ll be auctioned off for charity.

The promotional campaign for the upscale gym, from Wieden + Kennedy in New York under its ongoing “Commitment” banner, does not hawk memberships (directly) or discuss calorie burn, and it’s in line with what Buckingham said she’s noticed across categories.

“There’s more female empowerment and less body shaming in every kind of messaging, whether it’s clothing or cosmetics or diets,” she said. “It’s not about being beautiful in a conventional way, it’s about expressing yourself. It’s not about being thin, it’s about being healthy and strong and proud.”

This story first appeared in the Jan. 15, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.
@TLStanleyLA terry.stanley@adweek.com T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.