Joe Kernen, Andrew Ross Sorkin and the Skinny on Jessica Simpson’s New Role at Weight Watchers

LunchAtMichaelsNeither rain nor snow (not yet anyway) or a meltdown on Metro North’s Connecticut line (don’t ask!) can keep us from our appointed rounds on Wednesdays at Michael’s. Who else would tell you which talking heads (Star Jones, Joe Kernen, Andrew Ross Sorkin) were holding court in the dining room while pointing out the random sighting of a former beauty queen and even some titled ladies and lords? (Read on and you’ll find out.) We, not of the town car set, braved a very crowded train from Westchester (Note to fellow passengers: garlic on your breakfast isn’t a good thing!) to bring you all the earth-shattering goings on at 55th and Fifth today so you can eat at your desk while searching for Internet spoilers on Sunday’s series finale of Breaking Bad.

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Andy Amill and Diane Clehane
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I was joined today by my intrepid Greenwich neighbor Andy Amill, VP of Media Sales at Weight Watchers. I’ve been a lifetime member of Weight Watchers since my days heading up Danskin’s PR department (just try having to wear spandex to work) and wanted to get the skinny on all the incredible innovations the company has implemented over the past year. Have you seen Jennifer Hudson lately? Exactly. Andy tells me that Jennifer has been “an inspiration” to Weight Watcher members. The dynamic multi-media campaign featuring the brand ambassador which launched in 2010 has helped attract plenty of new members. I am also fascinated by the technology behind the company’s barcode scanner app, which members can download to their smart phones. It lets the user zap the UPC of thousands of products in the supermarket and instantaneously get the Weight Watchers PointsPlus value. What will they think of next?

When I mentioned that the Weight Watchers center where I attend meetings had undergone a pretty dramatic makeover a few months back, Andy explained that many stores have been redesigned in the past few years with a contemporary look and feel. “They’re all uniform so members can find a center anywhere and they all look the same,” he tells me. “It really helps them stay connected.” Speaking of connected, the company is also attracting a younger audience “through the digital door,” says Andy. Perhaps that’s because the Weight Watchers website goes so far beyond what you’d expect and has fostered an incredible sense of connectedness for its online community. One particularly passionate Weight Watchers Online subscriber is SNL alum Ana Gasteyer. When company execs discovered her tweeting about her successful weight loss thanks to the program (“She was deeply engaged. We had no idea she was doing Weight Watchers Online!”) They promptly signed her up as a brand ambassador to appear in a series of ads for the company. Clever, no?

There was one other celebrity I had to ask Andy about. Remember when Jessica Simpson famously signed on with the company to shed her baby weight and then — oops! — got pregnant again? Well, Andy tells me now that she’s had her second child, Weight Watchers has welcomed her back into the fold. Clearly, Jessica’s struggles with post-pregnancy weight loss will resonate with plenty of mothers young and old as well as People and Us Weekly readers who have been following her every move forever. And it’s perfect timing since the company has just launched MomFeeds, their first-ever digital magazine on Flipboard targeting all those mummies who want to look yummy again.  

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. PR powerhouse Liz Kaplow who helms Kaplow Communications, presiding over a client confab with Microsoft’s Elissa Steele and Eric Brown; “thought leader” Jeffrey Hayzlett, host of the new Bloomberg TV show, C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett; and Bloomberg TV exec Stacy Kennedy. Smart and savvy Liz brought the group together so Bloomberg’s team could meet the marketers of Microsoft and Skype. Talk about a working lunch…