Gelesis’ Plenity changes the conversation

Plenity, a new prescription weight management product from health startup Gelesis, sees its potential market as consisting of some 150 million Americans. But for the brand’s debut, it set its focus on a narrower slice: Early adopters within that larger group.

To reach them, Plenity and The&Partnership created a campaign centered on authenticity, placing empowerment and a challenger attitude at the center of their messaging.

“We are collectively experiencing a really interesting cultural moment as it relates to the conversation around weight and weight loss right now,” said Maggie Sadowski, Gelesis senior director of brand strategy and marketing.

Sadowski believes it was important for the Plenity team to acknowledge that evolving landscape.

“We know that people are fed up with the black-and-white thinking surrounding weight loss — good food versus bad food, what specific diet to follow, what specific exercises to do,” she explained.

To that end, the Plenity launch campaign uses models of different races, ethnicities and body types. The actors in the ad ask a series of rhetorical questions while at a pool party, on a dinner date and in other settings: Who said you can’t wear bright colors? Who said you have to put your life on hold while losing weight? The spot suggests that the answer to all such queries is “Who cares?”

“We considered using a celebrity spokesperson and we remain open to that, but for the first campaign we felt strongly that reflecting real people with relatable circumstances was the right path forward,” Sadowski explained. “We want to empower people to embrace their now and the journey itself, versus focusing on the after or something that is too aspirational.”

Plenity’s attempts to shake up the space began with a pre-launch activation in December 2021, when an enormous edible billboard (10-by-30 feet, composed of holiday cakes) was constructed on Astor Place in Manhattan. Passersby were encouraged to take a bite or three.

“We were reinforcing the notion that the holiday treats you love — any treats you love — can fit into a balanced diet, no matter what your health goals are,” Sadowski said.

Beyond the ad, the Plenity launch campaign includes non-edible billboards that similarly pose pointed questions. The portraits were shot by famed photographer Magdalena Woskinska, whose work has been published in The New York Times and Vogue.

“Rather than telling people what they should think about weight management, we are asking a question. We’re inviting people to stop and pause and think about the answer,” said Hannah Fishman, CCO, North America at The&Partnership.

For Sadowski, the challenger attitude of the Plenity campaign is consistent with the brand’s overall approach to weight loss.

“We’ve challenged a lot of the frictions and frustrations that people have around weight-loss treatment,” she said. “We have transparent pricing, versus going through insurance for reimbursement. We have improved access to care, because our model is telehealth-focused.”

“We saw, in talking to people, that they are craving a shift in the conversation about weight,” Sadowski continued. “They want to move to a place of flexibility and self-care, as opposed to deprivation. That is what we are trying to get at through all the work.”

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By Betty C. Giordano

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