Jenny Says —
Hey all, I’ve got some fan-fucking-tastic news. Jenny Craig is dead!
Yes, the Queen of Celebrity Weight Loss Endorsements performed a radical act of self-immolation, tossing it’s entourage of semi-celebrities onto the pyre, including Carrie Fisher, Valerie Bertinelli, Sara Rue, Nicole Sullivan, Ross Matthews, Jason Alexander, and Phylicia Rashad.
If you check out Jenny’s customer forum, you’ll find that they still have a board for Carrie’s Crowd, Val’s Pals and The Rue Crew, but noticeably absent are the pages dedicated specifically to Carrie, Val, and Sara, all of which redirect to the general customer testimonials.
What could have driven them to such drastic measures as abandoning the good will these personable celebs had with their fans, let alone the weight loss success they have sustained?
They found someone better.
Like a phoenix from the ashes, Jenny Craig used Mariah Carey, their biggest celebrity endorsement to date, to relaunch the company as simply Jenny. On November 9, they launched the new ad featuring Carey breaking free of some sort of gauzy entrapment to reveal her newly slimmed and toned body piece by piece.
Of course, this is all about your health:
As an artist, I use my voice to entertain. But, today I want to use my voice to draw attention to a serious matter. Two-thirds of the country is placing themselves at risk for heart disease and diabetes. Largely, that is due to unhealthy eating patterns and lack of physical activity… That’s why I feel so strongly about working with Jenny and the American Heart Association to help Americans get serious about their health as it pertains to these issues which are so important.
Aw, gee, Mariah, we didn’t know you cared so much.
In this same interview, Mariah, who lost 30 pounds with Jenny, invoked the recent death of Heavy D as part of her rationalization for joining Jenny. Of course, she doesn’t mention that when he died Heavy D was in the midst of yet another weight loss attempt, after a lifetime of losing and regaining hundreds of pounds, if not over a thousand, and that weight cycling has a well-documented correlation with death from cardiovascular disease.
With the AHA on board, Mariah can tout the health benefits of Jenny’s program as the “so important” reasons she joined Jenny’s team, but Carey’s endorsement serves one purpose, as outlined in the press area of Jenny’s website:
“A hipper, sexier Jenny,” the overview explains. ” That’s big news that’ll give them something to talk about.”
Getting people to talk up their brand is essentially the bread and butter of Jenny. It isn’t about the program itself or the health benefits of the Jenny approach, it is simply about keeping Jenny on the lips of every potential dieter out there.
But before you jump to conclusions and assume that Carey was simply in it for the money, you need to know that she thoroughly researched her options before
cashing the check endorsing the best weight loss company.
[Carey] told [Gayle] King she was approached by three different weight loss companies while pregnant but picked Jenny because she clicked with the people and liked their partnership with the American Heart Association.
“Some other suitors have great money, have great whatever it is that their concepts are, (but) I didn’t really connect with the people, and this was only over the phone at first. The first time I spoke with the executors at Jenny it was like we really clicked in terms of the fact that they had a vision beyond weight loss.”
So, Carey agreed to endorse Jenny Craig before she had even tried the product based solely on Jenny’s “executors” (I thought they were called counselors, but apparently the new Jenny has them wearing black hoods and wielding axes to ensure customer success). That’s troubling in its own right, but the inclusion of the AHA seems to have also played a role.
I find the AHA’s endorsement interesting because in their “Guidelines for Weight Management Programs for Healthy Adults,” the AHA describes their “Summary of Essential Components” in detail. Among the multiple essential components is this one:
Evaluation of the long-term effectiveness and safety of the program by review of weight loss and health status of all participants after completion of the program and at 1, 2, and 5 years after program completion
Although Jenny Craig does have one- and two-year studies available, the results are pathetic, to say the least. And there are zero five-year studies of the Jenny Craig program. Meanwhile, Jenny’s two-year randomized, controlled study provided 442 overweight and obese participants the food and counseling services for free, did not blind counselors to the identity of study participants (leaving them open to bias in treatment), and paid participants $25 to show up for the check-in dates, which counted toward the retention rate.
The results were directly responsible for Jenny earning Consumer Reports’ Top Diet prize for maintaining a 92% retention rate after two years (gee, how’d they do it?), something competitors and critics immediately picked up on.
But in terms of actual weight loss, the results are less than impressive: at one year, the average weight loss was 10.9% of starting weight, or 22 pounds, while after two years, the losses dwindled to 7.9% or 16 pounds, plus or minus 3 pounds.
Compare that to Jenny’s more realistic one-year study that followed 81,500 customers who joined Jenny Craig in 2005, and you’ll get a more accurate assessment of the program’s efficacy. At one year, they had a retention rate of approximately 12%. They don’t give the exact number in the report anywhere, just the following chart comparing the 2001 Platinum program with the 2005 Rewards program, which is Platinum plus financial incentives.
In that study, approximately 12% remained after one year and had lost an average of 13% of their starting weight, or 26 pounds.
After the AHA lays out their Essential Components, they share this gem:
If there are no data to demonstrate that program participants maintain their weight losses for 5 years or more, there is no scientific evidence of long-term results of the program. Case histories of program successes are not sufficient and should not be presented as descriptive of the program’s overall success rate.
How exactly does Jenny’s existing research square with the AHA’s Guidelines for Weight Management Programs? Answer: It doesn’t and it can’t.
And while Mariah Carey may tout the AHA’s endorsement as the reason for choosing Jenny, it seems a stretch that Carey’s health was the mitigating factor in her weight loss.
Carey says that she was so embarrassed by her pregnant body that she never went naked.
“I was never nude. I had a towel on in the tub, I had clothing on in the tub,” she told King. “I’m not lying, I promise you. You think I would let Nick see me looking rancid like that?”
When you really break it down, Mariah’s plea for, and Jenny’s commitment to, the health of fat people begins to seem like nothing more than lip service. Health becomes the superficial justification for launching a viral campaign that features pop sensation Mariah Carey ripping through sheets of fabric to expose her sexy body.
The health rationalizations for Jenny’s program are a mile wide and an inch deep. Spend some time exploring Jenny’s FAQ and you’ll see what I mean.
Under “How Jenny Works, ” I found the following brilliant explanation. Pay close attention and see if you notice something strange about these three answers:
Catch it? If not, don’t feel bad. Jenny spin-meisters have spent countless hours perfecting the meaningless pablum they spoon-feed potential clients.
This time, I’ll diagram the answers to draw more attention to the problem.
How do I know Jenny Craig really works? Because we repeat our answers until you submit to the fact that it works, dammit!
In the end, all Jenny Craig has done with their brand overhaul is to put lipstick on a pig. Not a single substantive change has taken place at Jenny Craig. The lauded change comes from a single celebrity endorsement by a woman whose sole contribution to the franchise is a popular name and a “sexy” body.
As a result, Jenny can rake in a temporary bump in market share for doing, essentially, nothing.
Only in America.