In what can only be described as a failed marketing move, Weight Watchers sent light bulbs to a group of female journalists in Australia to kick off a new diet campaign focused on sex.
It was intended to be a positive move for the diet company’s public relations. Instead, it offended women who felt the bulbs implied that overweight women can’t possibly have satisfying sex lives.
“If you’ve ever felt self-conscious in the sack you’re not alone – we’ve heard that more than half of women have avoided sex because they were worried about how they look,” the package read. “This globe is a ‘mood light’ designed to give you a little boost in the bedroom (a PG sex toy, if you will). We hope it helps you start seeing yourself in a new light – to love how you look and love how you feel.”
The Guardian’s assistant news editor Bridie Gabour, who received a mood light, was the first to take to Twitter to object. “How many people thought this was a good idea before it arrived at my desk as a piece of PR,” she asked.
The perhaps well-intentioned but tasteless marketing ploy was released in preparation for the company’s new program, Weight Watchers Black, which focuses on diet and nutrition as it relates to sex.
Though the company cited research about self-consciousness as a basis for the mailed packages, Weight Watchers later admitted the bulbs were a mistake. Senior marketing manager Rebecca Melville said they might not have made sense without the context of the campaign, Australian news outlet Mumbrella reported.
It’s not exactly a good time for a Weight Watchers flub. Stock in the company has been plummeting as of late and major investor Oprah Winfrey has lost $117 million dollars.
Winfrey announced in late 2015 that she would be purchasing a 10 percent stake in the company, making her its third largest investor. Stocks skyrocketed in the wake of her decision, but by early 2016 they were on a downward spiral. It’s possible that in this day and age, Weight Watchers' costly program just can’t compete with free diets and food trends. Whatever the cause of Weight Watchers' struggle, offending the women it seeks as customers isn’t likely to be its saving grace.