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«13TH INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH CONFERENCE “Ethical Issues for Public Relations Practice in a Multicultural World” Holiday Inn ...»

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Family and Social Support A “community” link is located at the top of Jenny Craig’s home page. A photo that shows a White male kissing a smiling White female on the cheek as the above caption reads “Jenny Craig Works!” is located at the bottom of the home page. To the right of that photo is a picture of two smiling females, one appears to be Hispanic and the other Black, standing side-by-side with the above caption asking, “Why Choose Jenny?” There is a quick link at the bottom entitled “corporate wellness.” The 50 Million Pound Challenge Web site has a link entitled “community” and a link entitled “teams” at the top of its home page. A message stating, “The Support of over 1 million members in our online community” is scrolled across the page.

Similar identities There are a total of nine images on Jenny Craig’s home page. Of the nine, one image appears to be a Black female, one appears to be a Hispanic female, three are of White males, and the other four images are of White females. On the 50 Million Pound Challenge home page, there is one image of a Black male.

Costs Jenny Craig’s home page does not directly state the cost of its program. It does, however, make indirect references to costs. It states “FREE Instant Callback” at the top right of the page.

At the top middle of the page, there is a graphic with the caption, “Is Jenny Craig affordable?” To the right of the graphic is a message stating, “Join now and lose 20 pounds for just $20*”, with the asterisk item stating “plus the cost of food.” “FREE Weight Loss Profile” is a message located in the middle of the page.

On the other hand, the 50 Million Pound Challenge home page has a message in the center of it stating, “Join the Challenge, it’s fast, easy and FREE!” Rhetorical Analysis Results Jenny Craig One home page from a January 2010 Jenny Craig Web site shows an immediate corporate identification, with the Jenny Craig trademark logo in the upper left, along with the tagline, “We Change Lives.” The voice and authority are institutional, despite the feminine persona of the “Jenny Craig” name. “We Change Lives” reinforces the authority behind the site—unknown, invisible yet powerful. Navigational tabs just beneath this banner show viewers key options from which they can choose, including: Our program, Success Stories, Food, Articles & Tips, Community & e-tools. This information-driven header underscores a progression of data, organized in an approach that emphasizes the authority, or ethos, of the 382 Jenny Craig organization. From there, the testimonials of others, or success stories, work to build up the promise of the Jenny Craig program as expressed in its tagline: “We Change Lives.” With the success stories amplified, this promise moves from potential to proof. Finally, the last tabs on the home page guide viewers through suggestions about food the program provides, articles, physical locations for the program and ways to maintain an online connection to the weight-loss regimen. For visitors to this site, the message is that weight loss is a matter of informed yet individual discipline.

Graphically, the Jenny Craig site is busy, incorporating the bright realism of photographs against a subtle blue background. Three panels immediately under the opening banner showcase a food dish, a smiling white female, and another colorful food image. On the far right are bold announcements of company specials and membership incentives. Scrolling down to the bottom of the home page reveals an assortment of pictures of other people, ostensibly customers, whose role is to personalize the “Jenny Craig” experience. Presented in pairs or individual shots, these nameless persons are marked by their racial ambiguity, appearing darker in skin tones than the top photos, yet not decisively aligned with a racial group. Possible clues to cultural identity, such as clothing, names and geographic locations, are missing. Instead, these subjects float within the Jenny Craig space, anchored only to the program itself and its customers.

Although the person of “Jenny Craig” is absent from the Web site, the face of the product is shared and divided among many different representations, including celebrity endorsers.

Actors Valerie Bertinelli and Jason Alexander were the featured notables during January 2010, with Alexander headlining a special outreach called “Jenny Craig for Men.” Overall, the combined bold colors of the Web site and the array of individuals portrayed, including a decidedly multicultural set of portraits, underscore an ethos, or authority, of the “collective individual.” Jenny Craig’s tone, communicated through its messages and design, invites individuals to associate with its corporate persona and assures visitors and potential members that the organization has the tools and information needed to support change and success.

50 Million Pound Challenge Dr. Ian Smith’s “50 Million Pound Challenge” uses a different approach in message, design and voice/authority to promote its weight-loss program, one that is anchored in a presentation reflecting afrocentric ideas and themes. The Afrocentrism paradigm asserts that there exists an experience of Africanness that defines core identity in common ways for those of African descent, or the African diaspora (Mazama, 2001). One of the paradigm’s values is an emphasis of community, or a communal identification over an individual identity. This priority leads to an elevation of family connectedness and spirituality as primary values, as well as recognition of holistic mind/body/spirit connections, plus a values system connected to service.





During January 2010, the home page for the Web site for the 50 Million Pound Challenge offered two parallel but complimentary designs that strikingly support the Afrocentric ideal. The concept of an African-centered design is one that is a recognizable, but ill-defined one. Popular design articles describe this aesthetic as incorporating African artifacts, a balance of muted colors with bright ones, and motifs reminiscent of “natural” woods and fibers (Patterson, 1997).

And while these facets can nominally create an Afrocentric design environment, more essential characteristics inherent to this aesthetic, one architectural practitioner/scholar argues, are “rhythm” of repetition and geometric shapes of “fractals” (Finch, 2008).

As do many Web site home pages, the 50 Million Pound Challenge site rotates images and graphics within a central framework (Figures 3 and 4). An ivory background stands as the 383 core space in which messages are carried, and the surrounding borders offer accent colors in such earth tones as deep brown, oranges, yellow and blue. These colors are repetitive throughout the site, and in their recurrences reflect a pattern of use that includes text, tabs and links. In the upper-left is the program’s logo, preceding the program’s name—also artistically rendered— “The 50 Million Pound Challenge.” The logo is a geometric arrangement of four brown arms clasping each other, set in a field of blue and green. Appearing as a square with round corners, the graphic tilts to form a diamond shape. The shape and colors suggest from a distance or with a quick glance, a quilting square or a woven texture. The modern sensibility of this site draws upon aspects suggesting the African sensibility without the overt use of identifiable artifacts from any specific African society or culture.

Instead of compiling many individual images and messages, the “Challenge” has one central theme, displayed in two different contexts. One view features a waist-length photograph of founder Dr. Ian Smith, smiling directly from the screen and into the faces of the site’s viewers.

To the right of his image, in bold and enlarged letters, is the campaign’s key message: “Be Part of the Movement.” Subsequent messages tell viewers in economic fashion key facets of the program: signing up is free, easy and “supported by over 1 million members in our online community.” Another view features in the same colors a mountain against an unspecified horizon. To the left of the mountain, adjacent to the logo, is an enlarged quote, attributed to someone who is only identified by a name. “Attention All, You can do it!” the quote begins.

“The best is yet to come. Stay encouraged and be blessed.” To the right of this quote, at the mountain’s summit, are two silhouetted figures. They pause while two more figures appear to be climbing towards them. Embedded on the side of the mountain is a direct and simple invitational message: “Introducing the new Challenge Community. Join Today for free.” None of the figures pictured or quoted receive full photographic identity but their representations as part of a larger community are highlighted.

The declarations of communal support, spiritual connectedness, and values evocative of family and service are clearly intertwined as core messages. Finally, the authority for the organization stems from its connection to community, emphasized by the use of such words as “community,” “movement,” and “us.” Discussion This study set out to determine if Jenny Craig’s Web site depicts culturally-sensitive messages that would inspire Black women to actively seek information about Jenny Craig’s online weight-loss program. The 50 Million Pound Challenge Web site was also analyzed for comparison purposes. Previous literature outlines several motivational factors for Black women to lose weight. However, for this particular study, the authors selected factors that are relevant to online programs and could be readily analyzed on a Web site. For example, childcare availability and transportation were not variables of interest in this study, as they do not apply to a virtual weight-loss program.

Overall, the analyses suggest that culturally-sensitive factors are minimally displayed in Jenny Craig’s Web site. A more thorough examination of the entire Web site may reveal different findings. Nevertheless, reviewing the most important page of Jenny Craig’s Web site indicated that the company should do more to tailor its message to Black women. There were a few messages on Jenny Craig’s home page that may appear to target Black women but contradicting evidence cancels out the company’s efforts. For example, there is one seemingly Black image on Jenny’s home page, but it is outnumbered by six White images on the page.

Another contradicting point is the community support variable. Jenny’s site features a 384 “community” link as well as images of possible friends or family members on the page.

However, there are two ads on the page that promote an individualistic approach to losing weight. An ad situated at the top left of the home page promotes the “Jenny Craig at Home” weight-loss option, stating that it is “Convenient and Private.” Another ad promoting “Jenny Craig at Home” says that it is “a convenient and private weight loss program.” Additionally, a link to the “Jenny Craig at Home Program” is located at the bottom. On the other hand, this may not appear as a contradiction but a marketing effort to reach a broader audience who may either be interested in a community or an individualistic weight-loss program.

Another interesting finding is the cost factor. Jenny Craig’s Web site never directly addresses the cost of its program. It only displays indirect messages about it. Interestingly enough, the word “free” is capitalized throughout the home page when there is a message about free program offerings. This may be an attempt to convey messages that will bring attention the free amenities and detract attention away from the expensive costs of the program. Tsai and Wadden (2005) found in their systematic study of major weight loss programs that Jenny Craig requires substantial up-front payment to the beat of $364 annually.

Surprisingly, the variables in question were not as prominently displayed on the 50 Million Pound Challenge Web site as results indicated from the content analysis. The home page neither displayed information about time-management nor depicted Black female images.

However, the home page succeeded in addressing culturally-sensitive variables relative to cost and support. Additionally, the site succeeded in displaying Afrocentric graphics, patterns, and messages as revealed in the rhetorical analysis.

Conclusion

This study revealed that Jenny Craig, one of the largest commercial weight-loss Web sites in the United States, lacks messages that removes barriers and improves informationseeking habits among Black women that would motivate them to lose weight. Although this study analyzed the home pages of Jenny Craig and the 50 Million Pound Challenge program, further studies should delve further into the interlinks and intralinks of both sites. Furthermore, data that reveal the number of Black female participants in each program may (or may not) strengthen the argument of major weight-loss programs’ efforts in recruiting Black women. The authors also recognize that the study compares a commercial (Jenny Craig) and non-commercial (50 Million Pound Challenge) Web site. A comparison of the same type of Web sites may reveal different results.

–  –  –

References

Adams-Campbell, L., Rosenberg, L., Washburn, R.A., Rao, R.S., Kim, K.S., Palmer, S. (2000) Descriptive epidemiology of physical activity in African-American women. Preventive Medicine, 30(1), 43-50.

Aldoory, L. (2001). Making health communications meaningful for women: Factors that influence involvement. Journal of Public Relations Research, 13(2), 163-185.

Aldoory, L., & Sha, B.L. (2008). The situational theory of publics: Practical applications, methodological challenges, and theoretical horizons. In E. L. Toth (Ed.), The future of excellence in public relations and communication management (pp. 339-356). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

American Heart Association (2008). Overweight and Obesity Statistics. Retrieved January 29, 2010 from http://www.americanheart.org/downloadable/heart/1197994908531FS16OVR08.pdf.

Ard, J.D., Rosati, R., & Oddone E.Z. (2000). Culturally-sensitive weight loss program produces significant reduction in weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol in eight weeks. Journal of the National Medical Association, 92(11), 515–523.

Asante, M. K. (1980). Afrocentricity: The theory of social change. Buffalo: Amulefi Publishing Company.



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