Nothing Tastes as Good as Noom Feels: Neoliberalism, Diet Culture, and Digital Advertising

Ronayne, Kerry, Media, Culture, and Technology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Cavalcante, Andre, Media Studies, University of Virginia

Noom leads the weight loss services industry in digital ad spend and has garnered more than 50 million app downloads worldwide since its release in 2016. That said, formal research on the company has yet to expand outside a clinical setting. In this thesis, I adopt a mixed methods approach informed by grounded theory to analyze Noom’s digital marketing strategy. I first conduct a critical discourse analysis of Noom’s paid materials on Google and Meta, followed by a walkthrough of the company’s flagship sign-up quiz. I argue Noom uses a combination of contradiction and basic persuasive techniques to define itself primarily by what it is not, leaving it up to users to decide what they think Noom is. All advertisements direct users to the same place: the company’s flagship sign-up quiz. The quiz not only prolongs the period of non-definition but justifies data collection and creates the illusion of informed consumption. Noom, through its different marketing materials, idealizes a certain kind of user: the neoliberal subject.

MA (Master of Arts)
advertising, biopower, dieting, diet culture, healthism, neoliberalism, noom
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