Protein World’s controversial campaign, featuring a skinny woman in an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny yellow bikini posed the question to female commuters: ‘Are you beach body ready?’ Whilst offering up a slimming drink.
The weight-loss advert caused widespread outrage, a social media backlash and many posters were defaced by irate commuters who saw it as body-shaming and misogynistic – targeting women through the implication that if they didn’t look like a catwalk model, perhaps they weren't ready for the beach (or, seemingly, the beach wasn't ready for them).
Today, the Advertising Standards Authority has cleared the advertisement, on the grounds it does not objectify women.
The claim that the ASA investigated stated that:
“1. the ad implied that a body shape which differed from the 'idealised' one presented was not good enough or in some way inferior and was, therefore, offensive; and
2. the combination of an image of a very slim, toned body and the headline "ARE YOU BEACH BODY READY?" was socially irresponsible in the context of an ad for a slimming product.”
The ruling deemed that no further action was necessary because (and wait for this bit…) the advert “was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.”
In their ruling on the advertisement, the ASA states that:
“Although we understood the claim “Are you beach body ready?” invited readers to think about their figures, we did not consider the image of the model would shame women who had different body shapes into believing they needed to take a slimming supplement to feel confident wearing swimwear in public.”
This response has flummoxed us, since the adverts were banned from the tubes by the ASA in April, after being deemed socially irresponsible and following concerns it promoted weight loss.
Rebecca Field, from eating disorders charity, Beat, responded to the news, saying: "We find the ruling from the ASA extremely disappointing and we would argue that the advert is irresponsible. While we recognise advertising and the media cannot cause eating disorders – they are much more complex than that – we are aware how toxic images can be to an individual."
This response is based on item 4.1 of the ASA rule book, which states that Marketing communications "must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age.”
We are wondering how, based on these guidelines, they came to the conclusion that the advert wouldn’t cause offence, or what, indeed, is deemed ‘widespread’ by the ASA, after the adverts were defaced across the London Underground, the ASA received close to 400 complaints, a Change.org petition with 70,000 signatures and a protest in London’s Hyde Park…as well as a new wave of outrage in new York where the advertisement has recently been placed.
Protein World has remained unapologetic about the adverts, with their head of global marketing, Richard Staveley, saying that it had been “a brilliant campaign for us”.
The company had stated that the phrase "beach body" was commonly used and understood to mean looking at one's best. Therefore, the question posed in the ad, "Are you beach body ready?" was intended to invite the viewer to consider whether they were in the shape they wanted to be.”
Stylist have reached out to the ASA and are awaiting a response. We maintain that the adverts are offensive and body shaming, and have our own set of rules as how to get beach body ready...
Words: Harriet Hall
Images: Rex Features