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This work was created by Mary Dean, KickSkirt's founder, while she served as VP/Creative Director at Publicis USA. Mary launched Curves' first national advertising campaign and led their work through January 2007.

The Challenge:

When Curves entered the national advertising arena, the fitness and weight-loss industry was spending $600 million annually to sell their wares. Curves was a "thirty-minute fitness and weight loss" franchise that had to make a splash with a relatively miniscule budget.

But that was the least of our challenges. The bigger issue was our target. Our woman was on the "wrong side" of 35, at least 20 pounds overweight in a society that worships young thin models. Working out had never been part of her life and her one bold attempt to go to a gym ended long before the monthly payments. Gyms were not for her. They were full of "skinny minnies in lycra" and staff that treated her as invisible once she signed a contract.

"Hate" barely covered the way our woman felt about gyms. And the idea of falling for another bogus weight-loss scheme made her want to scream.

Although our woman wanted to change her life, she had become somewhat resigned to her body. But deep down, there was a vision of her "best self" that was uniquely her own. This vision had little resemblance to the stereotype advertisers were bludgeoning her with.

Her skepticism and resignation were matched only by her fatigue. She had a part-or full-time job, a family, and she liked to contribute to the community. When she finally fell into bed every night, the minutes she had spent doing something for herself totaled exactly zero.

This is the woman we had to convince to pick up the phone and call Curves. Now. Gary and Diane Heavin, Co-Founders of Curves, we're going to be tracking every call and they expected results.

The Solution:

The answer came from women who had already discovered Curves. These women told emotional stories of reclaiming their lives and of actually laughing their way through a thirty-minute workout. Their self-esteem rose as their weight fell.

Anyone feels this way while finally losing weight. But there was something different going on here as well. These women felt comfortable and supported at Curves. They had found a place where women just like them were dealing with the same issues, working against the same odds, and helping each other succeed.

We decided to position Curves not as a gym or a diet, but as a community where women helped each other reach their goals. This allowed us to rise above the fray of the industry babble and offer women something no one else was talking about: support and community.

Curves offered women the power to amaze themselves.

Creatively, we made sure to use real women rather than models. This was back in 2003 before the Dove campaign. We spoke with respect and let women know that we valued their unique goals for themselves. Even though a huge part of our media buy was Direct Response TV, we broke the rules and refused to shout, "call now." Instead, we quietly invited women by saying, "When you're ready, call." The thought that went into each word and image in all of our advertising paid off. And it was matched and exceeded by Curve's commitment to deliver on the experience. They were, and are, completely and passionately dedicated to "strengthening women."

The fact that Curves lives and breathes their brand makes all the difference.

Women liked what they saw. To give you a sense of the results, we'll simply quote from Marti Barletta's book, Prime Time Women.

"It took McDonald's 25 years and Subway 26 years to open 6,000 franchises; Curves did it in only seven. Curves is the largest fitness franchise in the world, the 8th largest of any kind in the United States, and the 10th largest in the world. There are more than 4 million members, representing 50 states and 42 foreign countries. In January 2006, Curves received the following accolades in Entrepreneur magazine's 27th annual elite Franchise 500 ranking: the No. 1 Fitness Franchise, the No. 1 Low Cost Franchise, the No. 5 Fastest Growing Franchise, the No. 3 Top Global Franchise and the No. 3 Best Franchise overall. The Curves 2004 marketing campaign, "The Power to Amaze," received an EFFIE award and was so successful that it exceeded all measurement metric goals by at least 200 percent, according to Curves' president Mike Raymond."

Here's what a few folks at Curves have to say about Mary's contribution to their success:

"When I think of what Mary has contributed to our brand, I always remember the day she showed us our first campaign. It was a very moving moment because her campaign not only gave us confirmation of what we had achieved, it also gave us a clearer vision of what we could become.

Mary has been an important part of our growth. Over the past five years, she has become the voice of Curves. Her words, passion and insights helped us define Curves in a way that I'm extremely proud of and in the process, she has touched the lives of millions of women. "
Diane Heavin, Co-Founder, Curves

"Mary Dean played a leadership role in crafting our brand identity and promise in the initial years of our first national advertising effort. During this time, she not only helped define the vision and its expression in advertising, but she was an effective advocate for that vision with our senior management and franchise organization. She was passionate about her work and our business and everyone at Curves has high regard for her talent." Mike Raymond, President, Curves

"I've worked with Mary as both a colleague and a client and her insights into female consumers have resulted in advertising campaigns that deliver results while carving out a unique place for brands in women's hearts and minds. She has a business-honed instinct of what makes consumers tick that goes beyond the traditional mythology of marketing to women"
Brice Campbell, Director of Global Marketing, Curves