Weight Watchers sheds McCann for Wieden: Free apps taking their toll?

Weight Watchers and its lead creative agency - McCann, New York - are parting way after a seven-year relationship.

Jessica Simpson: Lost 40 pounds

The diet giant “appears poised to move the account to Wieden & Kennedy,” said AdAge, citing people familiar with the matter.

McCanntold employees about the loss yesterday morning in an internal memo.

Late last year Lesya Lysyj,former chief marketing officer at Heineken USA, took over as president of Weight Watchers North America.

Lysyj is familiar with Wieden from her time at Heineken, when she named the agency the lead shop for brand Heineken in 2011.

"There have been significant recent changes at Weight Watchers, including a new CEO, a new President, and a search for a new North American CMO," said Chris Macdonald, president of McCann, New York, in the memo, which said the relationship would end in June. "It makes sense to part ways."

Weight Watchers also recently parted ways with senior VP-marketing Cheryl Callan.

Weight Watchers spent $149.8 million on measured media in 2013, including branded food products, according to Kantar Media. The last big campaign McCann did for Weight Watchers starred Jessica Simpson.

Traditional diet marketers like Weight Watchers have struggled, said AdAge, as more dieters look toward competing online solutions, including free weight-loss apps.

"Our offerings have become less appealing in this changing market, largely because our innovation approach and our approach to the consumer in general have not been sufficiently market-driven," Weight Watchers International CEO James Chambers said in February.

He expressed confidence in the marketer's new diet program, called Simple Start, but said "the marketing introducing it has been less effective."

In the McCann memo, Macdonald said: "We can be very proud of the strategically smart and creatively superb work we've done over the past seven years spanning broadcast and online, including the stunning Jennifer Hudson campaign, the break-through outreach to men starring the inimitable Charles Barkley, and more recently the relatable and very human Jessica Simpson work."

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