After Men's Fitness and Fortune magazine labeled Oklahoma City one of "America's fattest cities" and the "Fast Food Capitol of America," respectively, in 2007, the city's leaders realized that obesity was bad for people's health and bad for business.
Featuring a relatively low-cost of living, stable housing prices, school-improvement plans, and other civic developments, the city feared seeing its reputation besmirched.
With Mayor Mick Cornett himself having lost 38 pounds recently, the PR team thought he would be a perfect advocate to help put the entire city "on a diet." Whereas obesity was perceived as simply a personal matter, the ultimate unannounced goal was to get the community perceiving obesity differently, Cornett says.
A press conference featuring the mayor standing next to an elephant at the city's zoo launched the campaign's media outreach. Other public appearances by the mayor reinforced the message on a grassroots level, with churches and other local community groups aiding the effort to get citizens participating.
The effort centers on the Web site, where visitors can keep track of weight loss and get updated information on support groups, healthy eating choices and other information. "When people register and track their weight loss on the site, its gets them to keep coming back," says account leader Larry McAlister, SVP of Crosby-Volmer.
Nearly 18,000 participants have lost about 100,000 pounds toward the stated goal of 1 million pounds.
Media coverage includes local outlets, as well as national shows like Ellen, NBC's The Biggest Loser, and ABC's Nightline.
Initially planned to last six months, the program will now continue indefinitely, Cornett says.
PR team: Oklahoma City mayor's office; Crosby-Volmer International Communications (Washington and Oklahoma City)
Campaign: This City is Going on a Diet
Duration: January 2008-ongoing
Budget: Under $10,000 per month