Carnie Wilson Obesity-Coping Media Campaign
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Carnie Wilson Obesity-Coping Media Campaign was searching for a way to build awareness/recognition for their Web site and establish themselves as a premiere health and wellness community on the Internet.

Paul Holmes

Launched in November 1998, was a new health resource site that was unfamiliar to the public. was searching for a way to build awareness/recognition for their Web site and establish themselves as a premiere health and wellness community on the Internet.   As a way to draw people to their site, they decided to discuss and educate the public about Morbid Obesity, a disease that affects millions of people in the US, and the surgical treatment available.  A challenge to this campaign was that the market for the surgical treatment of morbid obesity is not well penetrated.  Annually, only about 30,000 patients, out of an estimated candidate pool of 800,000, undergo surgery as a cure for obesity.  Key reasons for this under-penetration are the widely held belief that obesity is not a disease and the negative-market perception attached to the ‘traditional’ gastric bypass surgery.   We worked with to secure Carnie Wilson as a spokesperson and use her story to discuss the surgical treatment of morbid obesity and build awareness for the Web site. As a result of our efforts, has become the Internet’s premier health and wellness community featuring celebrities and their doctors educating others about their serious illnesses they have experienced (topics including morbid obesity) and surgical treatments for morbid obesity have tripled. 
We experienced three primary difficulties through out the media campaign while trying to publicize and its associated obesity health awareness campaign:
  • The media’s primary interest in Carnie Wilson as an entertainer produced several stories that focused on Wilson’s personal life and not or the morbid obesity health awareness campaign.
  • Constant struggle with celebrity spokesperson (Wilson) to focus on/discuss and its associated obesity campaign with the media and to prevent celebrity from devoting a majority of the media time discussing her personal entertainment life.
  • Media and the public concluding that Wilson’s “live” broadcast of her baroscopic bypass surgery via was not an educational but a sensationalist tabloid-style move.
We conducted a comprehensive research to obtain general information/statistics on obesity, the Internet and healthcare industry.  A thorough analysis of the data gathered indicated that an informative health/wellness Internet resource and morbid-obesity educational media campaign would prove to be a valuable asset to the general public—especially the obese.  A sample of our research findings are listed below: 
Obesity Research: Morbid obesity affects approximately 40% of Americans and has very serious health implications.
Online Health Research: In 1998, more than 60 million people went online for health information representing between 30 to 40 percent of all online visitors  (Cyber Dialogue, February 1999).
Women and seniors are heavy visitors to online health information (The Industry Standard, December 1998).
It is estimated that by 2005, some 1 billion people may be connected to the Internet  (The World Almanac, 1999).
Healthcare Industry Research: Of all Net business, the growing online healthcare industry has the greatest opportunity to profoundly affect the lives of ordinary people. (The Industry Standard, April 5, 1999).
  1. Build and increase brand awareness/recognition for via a celebrity spokesperson/media campaign  (Carnie Wilson on Morbid Obesity).
  2. Identify as the premiere Internet resource to produce and deliver celebrity-hosted educational medical programming.
  3. Drive traffic to the Web site.
  4. Increase awareness of the surgical alternative as treatment for morbid obesity, create a call to action for qualified patients and provide support for those interested in the surgery.
Everyone—especially men and women who personally and/or have family afflicted with the morbid obesity disease.
The Carnie Wilson Morbid-Obesity Media Campaign  - We created a strategic media campaign to formally launch/publicize, increase traffic to the site and facilitate national awareness regarding baroscopic bypass surgery as a treatment for obesity--with the Carnie Wilson Obesity Story as the focal point.  The Carnie Wilson Morbid-Obesity Coping Story was told as Carnie Wilson, daughter of Beach Boy Brian Wilson and one-third of the Wilson Phillips pop group, at age 31 weighed close to 300 pounds.  Threatened for her life, Wilson underwent baroscopic gastric bypass surgery live via  As she benefits from this surgery, Wilson decided to publicly share her life-struggling story and educate the public on this morbid disease via public announcements and through her continued support group and live chats.  The Wilson story was developed as the main bait to contact the media, peek media interest and facilitate media coverage—ideal vehicle to strategically weave and place placements.  Our goal was to generate Wilson Obesity-Coping Story coverage in national and local broadcast and print media.  Agency developed a multi-level media campaign by initially publicizing and working with A-tier media and working its way down the media rankings.
Broadcast Media - To ensure that the story would be featured on the highest rated news program, we entered into an exclusive agreement with ABC’s 20/20 giving them the right to be the first broadcast media outlet to air the Wilson Morbid-Obesity Coping Story.  In addition to 20/20, we worked with many top-tier entertainment/news broadcast media outlets to facilitate coverage.  The team worked closely with the media to introduce, deliver briefings regarding Wilson’s surgery and post-surgery developments, as well as to publicize Carnie’s continued association with via personal support group and live chats.  To ensure continual coverage of the site/story, we repeatedly contacted the media via press materials (media alerts and pitches), conference calls and on-location interviews.  To facilitate proper spin of story and media placements, we set up client media training sessions, scheduled interviews and staffed media tours.
Print Media - To ensure that the site/story would be prominently featured in the premier entertainment publication, we secured an exclusive with People Magazine giving them the right to be the first print media outlet to publish an Wilson Morbid-Obesity Coping Feature Story.  To ensure a People cover story, on a daily basis, we worked with their editorial, photography and art departments to fact check and keep them abreast of, Carnie’s surgery/post surgery developments and continued association with via support groups and live chats. We staffed interviews, scheduled conference calls and conducted media training sessions.  We scheduled and monitored a cover photo shoot session with John Exley Studios on February 4, 2000.  We also checked in regularly with People to facilitate and shape the story.  Secondary to People, we worked with various premier print media outlets to inform them of Wilson Obesity Story to facilitate additional media coverage.  Contact with secondary-tier media was conducted primarily through press materials (media alerts, pitches), conference calls and phone interviews.
Since Carnie Wilson’s gastric bypass surgery on August 11, 1999, she has lost more than 150 pounds.  The Carnie Wilson Morbid-Obesity Coping/ media campaign has seen major success in terms of television, radio, magazine, newspaper and Internet coverage, Web site dynamics and client results. 
Client Results - Client results have exceeded expectations and in some cases created unexpected, positive results. Over 125 million television households, radio listeners, and magazine and newspaper readers have heard the Carnie Wilson/ story.  Medical equipment manufacturers have seen demand grow to a point where additional surgeon training programs are needed. Hospitals reported the number of gastric bypass surgeries tripling. We have also seen more preference created than planned – physicians using competitors’ equipment have reported patients wanting the surgery ‘exactly as Carnie had it.’
Television and Radio Coverage - We have had Carnie Wilson/ story featured and/or covered on multiple national television and radio media shows.  Each time Carnie appeared on a show, she created more awareness for ADIYH as she discussed her surgery and mentioned her ADIYH Web site support group and associated events. Television and radio coverage reached 102,450,000 households appearing on 20/20, Good Morning America,  MSNB’s Today in America, CNN, Entertainment Tonight, Howard Stern TV, Donnie & Marie among others.
Print Coverage - We have had the Carnie Wilson Obesity/ADIYH story featured and/or covered in numerous national and regional publications including a cover feature in People Magazine. We received 24,871,300 print impressions in publications including People, USA Today, The New York Times, TV Guide, Yahoo Internet Life, Mademoiselle, Elle, London Times, Sunday Denver Post, and Fort Worth Star Telegram, among others.
Internet - Multiple stories have appeared in is the #1 newspaper site on the Internet visited by almost 15 million unique visitors per month and 1+ million daily users with 8 million daily page views.
ADoctorInYourHouse Web Site Dynamics - Due to the Carnie Wilson Obesity-Coping Media Campaign, the Web site has experienced increases in traffic and has fostered a sustainable, vibrant community:
  • 57,000 unique visitors in the first 15 minutes of the live surgery, 2.8 million hits overall
  • Between 2,000 – 3,000 unique visitors per day – large percentage of repeat visitors
  • Average 100 participants per chat (4 times AOL average) average 49 posts per day on support group during June 2000
Media events drive significant traffic.  For example the August 16, 2000 Howard Stern appearance (ADIYH mention) resulted in 7,000 incremental visitors
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