This study explored adult's attitudes and reactions to a range of television advertisements (ads) promoting healthy weight, physical activity and healthy eating. Twenty-four focus groups (N = 179) were conducted in metropolitan and regional areas of the Australian states of Victoria, New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland, with participants segmented by sex, education (no tertiary, at least some tertiary) and life stage (young adults, parents). Each group was assigned to one of the three advertising streams – Weight, Activity, or Nutrition – where responses to five different ads were explored using semi-structured, moderator-led discussions. Discussion transcripts were qualitatively content analysed using a conventional approach. Four main themes were identified in participants' discussions about the ads' main messages – (i) Why is it a problem? (ii) Who is it a problem for? (iii) What should I do about it? (iv) How do I make the changes? Reactions varied by demographic factors and current weight and lifestyle status. Participants furthest from achieving public health recommendations for weight, diet and activity were motivated by ‘what’ and ‘how’ ads involving gentle persuasion and helpful hints. Participants who were closer to meeting these recommendations were motivated by ‘why’ ads featuring more graphic and emotive content and new information. Findings suggest a strategic approach is important for the development of public health ads promoting healthy weight and lifestyle, with consideration given to the specific communication goals and who the target audience is. This should help ensure an appropriate message is delivered to priority population subgroups in the most informative and motivating manner.