Healthcare: Appesat as a 'natural' weight-loss choice

Campaign: Not so Little Britain

Ambassador: Vanessa Feltz
Ambassador: Vanessa Feltz

Client: Appesat
PR team: Pegasus PR
Timescale: January-December 2009
Budget: £70,000

In 2009, Pegasus PR launched a natural over-the-counter product called Appesat, which claimed to aid weight loss by suppressing appetite. The agency was hired to position the product as an effective, safe and credible new weight management product that stood out within the crowded weight-loss category. Concurrently, it had to run a campaign to help tackle the UK's growing obesity problem.

Objectives

- To communicate the launch of Appesat to consumers, particularly women aged 25 to 45

- To drive at least 20,000 unique users to the Appesat website and drive product sales

- To generate consumer product demand to help secure retail distribution listings

- To position Appesat as an innovative over-the-counter product that can help support sustainable weight loss.

Strategy

Pegasus PR set up an obesity expert advisory board that comprised a nutritionist, a metabolic fitness expert, a GP, a psychologist and a professor of appetite psychology. This panel was used to add credibility to the product launch by providing media comment and tailored weight-loss advice to key journalists.

It set up a website with information for consumers, produced an online video with media medic Dr Chris Steele and approached influential bloggers and websites to trial the product prior to launch.

The agency set up a system with a call centre to enable feedback on the product, providing a steady stream of positive case studies.

Pegasus PR also secured Vanessa Feltz as a celebrity ambassador and produced a video diary charting her weight-loss progress. It also held a media briefing with 21 national health editors at Nobu the week before the launch of GSK's rival product Alli. It positioned Appesat as the natural alternative to Alli without side effects.

Measurement and evaluation

In total, 287 press cuttings were secured. Highlights included features in the Daily Mail, editorial in The Sun and The Observer, an exclusive interview with Feltz in The Mail on Sunday, plus news coverage on Heart FM.

In terms of key messages, 58 per cent of the media coverage referred to Appesat as a natural alternative to Alli, produced by GlaxoSmithKline. Seventy-five per cent said it helped people feel fuller for longer, 41 per cent included reference to the clinical research to support the product's efficacy and 21 per cent said the product enabled sustainable weight loss.

Results

Appesat sales have exceeded £1.5m since January 2009 with limited advertising support and have exceeded initial sales targets by 500 per cent.

The media coverage led to retail listings in Boots, Sainsbury's and Tesco.

Since the start of January, more than 130,000 people have visited the website - more than six times the target of 20,000 - with significant online sales spikes corresponding with the publication date of key articles.

SECOND OPINION - Jane Seaton, Director of lifestyle, Tonic Life Communications

Launching a new weight-management product in the midst of an obesity crisis should be like falling off a log. Which is why the campaign created by Pegasus was hugely effective in terms of media delivery, talkability and web hits - I would imagine the team and the client were delighted with the results.

Regarding the overall approach, what it could have done differently is be more single-minded in its proposition and create a more credible positioning by tackling what I believe is the most newsworthy aspect of weight management: the psychology behind eating.

In terms of execution, the plan was highly efficient and covered all bases. However, I was surprised by the choice of celebrity - Vanessa Feltz. I have nothing against her per se, but in recent years she has carved out her career by becoming a pro yo-yo dieter - so I am not sure she is perceived as aspirational and credible to the weight-savvy 25- to 45-year-old woman. Surely there was someone else in celebland who wanted to drop a dress size or two and get their face in front of some journalists?

The team had some big challenges in terms of timing with the launch of Alli looming, but overcame them with ease and secured a whopping 21 health editors at a briefing event at Nobu (no doubt chosen because of the small portion sizes?). Pegasus also capitalised on the 'chatter effect' of this audience by using social media as an effective way of communicating the brand.

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