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The Spot: Beside Themselves


IDEA: If you could speak to your past or future self—literally—what would you say? How would you feel if your future self had made changes you'd only dreamed of making? Or your past self was still trapped and miserable, unable—until now—to move forward? Weight-loss company Medifast wades into these deep waters in its new campaign, taking "before" and "after" images of its customers—the oldest trick in the diet-marketing book—and putting them in motion, to poignant effect. For three new ads, it filmed three people before starting a diet and again eight months later. Thanks to some nifty editing, it then got the heavier and slimmer versions of each person to appear to talk to each other in real time about reaching their cherished goal. In a category full of celebrities and appeals to vanity, Medifast saw a chance to dig deeper. "Whenever I meet people who've done the program, invariably they start crying. But I had never seen an emotional approach," said Michael Decker, vp of brand marketing and creative services. "That was my challenge to the agency: Find an emotional hook for this category."

: The agency, Solve, came up with the concept, found the right customers—Tina Shelley, Kimberley Vandlen and Joseph Garcia—and let them speak for themselves. The spots are largely unscripted. Solve's creatives and director Jorn Haagen worked mostly to get the talent in the right headspace to engage with themselves in an authentic, emotional way. "It feels good to see you. It makes me want it. I've wanted it so bad," the "before" version of Vandlen says in her spot while weeping openly. "This is all you," her future self replies, choking up as well. "It was difficult to watch. They really bared their souls," said Solve CEO John Colasanti. The interactions were pieced together in editing, mostly to match emotions rather than dialogue. (The "after" customers were shown only minimal footage from the earlier shoots, and of course there was none to show the "before" customers.) The dialogue is reflective rather than celebratory. There are a few small physical flourishes—Vandlen hands herself a tissue at one point, and Garcia high-fives himself—but the action is mostly unadorned. The tagline is "Become yourself."

ART DIRECTION/FILMING: All three spots were filmed in a pair of one-day shoots—separated by the eight months—at the same house in Los Angeles. For the second shoot, the scenes had to be recreated precisely as they looked earlier, down to how much water was in the drinking glasses. "The house wasn't just sitting there in mothballs waiting to be reshot," said Colasanti. (Indeed, a family lived there in the intervening months.) The home was chosen for its "comfortable and unassuming" feel and modest décor, Colasanti said. "We needed a setting that was as real as the people," he said. Costuming and makeup weren't overly prescribed. The agency resisted employing superficial cosmetic changes to make the "before" person look awful and the "after" person beautiful. The "before" people weren't made to wear anything ill-fitting, for example—in fact, they wore their own clothes. At both shoots they wore their hair as they normally would.

SOUND: Subtle music underscores the spots. "It plays a similar role as the setting would," said Colasanti. "It's ambiance, but it isn't overpowering. It adds this almost ethereal quality to it." Sound design is minimal.

MEDIA: National broadcast and cable, supported by print and social. Year-to-date sales are up tenfold, according to the agency.


Client: Medifast
EVP, Chief Marketing Officer: Brian Kagen
VP, Brand Marketing and Creative Services: Michael D. Decker
Director, Social Media: Brian Gleason
Agency: Solve, Minneapolis
Creative Director/Art Director: Hans Hansen
Creative Director/Writer: Eric Sorensen
Producer: Judy Brink
Account Director: Andrew Pautz
Director: Jorn Haagen
Production Company: Assembly Films
Editorial: Channel Z Editorial
Editor: Jim Stanger
Music/Sound: Echo Boys
Post Production/EFX: Volt Studios

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