Jenny Craig and the power of social media

The last 24 hours have seen a great example of how social media can bring about change.

Early in the day, news broke that weight loss brand Jenny Craig was sponsoring the Kyle and Jackie O show. Kyle Sandilands, the co-host of the show, is notorious for his sexist and abusive comments about women, most famously referring on air to a female journalist as a ‘fat slag’ and a ‘piece of shit’. Many people were surprised that Jenny Craig would choose to sponsor such a person, and to have him and his show as part of their advertising strategy.

Over the course of the day posts on the American and Aust/NZ Facebook pages showed the reaction of Jenny Craig customers and other members of the community. The comments were about 90% negative towards the sponsorship decision, with the remainder being equivocal, eirenic (‘can’t we just all be nice about this’), or finding some ironic humour in the situation. A similar reaction was seen on Twitter, using the hashtag #jennycraig and addressed to the @jennycraig and @jennycraigAusNZ accounts..

The Jenny Craig Aust/NZ people  spent most of the afternoon defending the decision, with such specious arguments as “we are not supporting Kyle, we are advertising dawn to dusk on Austereo and his program is just part of the schedule”, but respondents were having none of it. They also tried to deflect the arguments with “What would you say to Kyle if you had the chance”, but that also fell in a hole.

Mid afternoon I proposed that the whole thing might be a publicity stunt, and that early in the evening (in time to make the morning papers) the management of Jenny Craig would see sense (and rediscover their integrity) and withdraw the sponsorship. That is exactly what happened. I wondered at the time if I was being too cynical, and there are others asking questions today about whether the whole thing was a publicity stunt. If it was, I doubt that it was worth it – the positive publicity from reversing it hardly outweighs the negative publicity generated by the decision in the first place.

The outcome from this was most satisfactory, and it shows the power of social media to bring about change for good.


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