Barbara Lippert’s Critique: Heavy Mettle

Monica parlays shame into success
“Anybody who knows me knows I’m not a media hound,” Monica Lewinsky told Larry King with a straight face and most of her body under the desk.
The CNN interview was less than stellar in terms of revelatory dirt. King’s eyewear remained unfogged, his trademark suspenders flaccid, as Monica explained she had many legal bills to pay. She plugged her new weight-loss program, sounding as packaged and pre-planned as the meals on the Jenny Craig diet.
I know. We’re sick of hearing about her tacky oral appetites and just wish she and her weaknesses of the flesh would disappear.
Still, it’s probably best she avoid an office situation. Within the world of freelance jobs, we’ve got to give her her due as a J.C. spokesperson.
Whatever Jenny Craig is paying her (and some have suggested up to $1 million), she has already earned it and more by attracting free media attention in the peak holiday remorse weeks, when the bloated and guilty decide to diet.
Of course, hiring a disgraced celeb for the free publicity before the advertising even runs is the cynical strategy that No Excuses jeans has repeatedly used with its parade of recently embarrassed, shame-free spokesvixens.
But this is different. The irony is that Monica is perfect for the job.
She is the giant id. We relate to her human frailties and needs. (Weight was such an issue in her intern days that the reason the Gap dress was stuck in the back of her closet was that Linda Tripp told her she looked fat in it.)
And she obviously feels shame.
If she can transform herself physically through the discipline of a dieting regimen, that’s the most powerful case any diet company could ever make in its advertising.
I have no doubt that what she says in the spot is true. She’s tried “every diet in the world,” and nothing worked. “If it was stand on your head, if it was eat only grapefruit,” she says she’s done it.
And there’s no question that within the pantheon of previous Jenny Craig reps, Monica Lewinsky is an elevated life force. I don’t mean to be harsh, but the previous spokesdieter, Jerry Mathers, a.k.a. The Beaver, was sad, even with his paunch-reducing weight loss.
At one point, the company even hired the always-svelte Regis Philbin. This was way before his current career pinnacle as host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? In the spots, he interviewed successful members, mostly older women with sweaters and perms.
He’d stick a microphone in front of them and ask leading questions:
“So Evelyn, you lost weight, heh?”
The setup of the new J.C. spot (there are 30- and 60-second versions) is standard: Monica sits and talks to an off-camera interviewer to make her answers look spontaneous. Then we get cuts of her before and after, then back to the couch. The room is overflowing with florals and chintz and pretty feminine things. Is this lavish style meant to convey what Monica tells us: that you don’t have to deny yourself anything?
Speaking of the dramatic before and after, there’s one shot of Monica pruning flowers in a lush garden in which she wears a beige vest that is exceedingly unflattering and billowy. She looks like she’s dressed for an Ensure commercial.
I doubt that even on her worst day she would dress like Puff Monica. But the company let her get away with not mentioning her “before” weight–only that she has lost 31 pounds and is “still losing.”
I never thought I’d be saying this, but it’s good for Monica–and good for us. I wouldn’t take dating tips from her. But dieting? She’s the commander-in-chief. K
Jenny Craig
Agency: Suissa Miller, Santa Monica, Calif.
Exec. Creative Director: David Suissa
Assoc. Creative Directors: Mike Indgin, Jonathan Fong
Director: Rene Eram/T-Minus 30 Film

Publish date: January 10, 2000 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT