Demonstration worthy advertising?

If you keep an eye on social media, you won’t have missed this week’s uproar around Protein World’s tube ads.

The London commuters among us will have seen the advert with the slogan “Are You Beach Body Ready?” wrapped around a bikini-clad young woman. The outdoor has polarised the masses with a number of the ads being defaced, a dedicated hashtag doing its social rounds and a change.org petition gathering pace, putting immense pressure on Transport for London to have the posters removed.

Of course this isn’t the first time there has been an advert that bears some skin – without strolling down the platform we can almost guarantee that there were any number of equally revealing posters – so why has this one been different? The problem, it seems, has been the meaning behind the ad and the product it is in turn selling – weight loss pills and food supplements. Herein lies the bone of contention with some 40,000 angry commuters who feel that the ad pressurises and encourages young women to starve themselves in order to achieve the same beach body as the young lady that adorns the image. The Advertising Standards Authority had received over 300 complaints shortly after the ads went up, with the general nature being that the ad is “offensive, irresponsible and harmful because it promotes an unhealthy body image”.

We won’t go into Photoshop and how it creates bodies that no amount of dieting, exercise and pills will lead you to. What’s more important here is the suggestion that weight loss products can actually give you that body. It’s this point, we think, that makes this more than a story about the objectification of women alone. This is that, mixed with an unrealistic standard of beauty, underpinned by an absurdly unhealthy way to achieve it.

TfL have decided to pull the ad, whilst the Advertising Standard Agency is in the process of reviewing it themselves. Another ad under the spotlight is a Tom Ford perfume poster, featuring model Cara Delevingne… naked. It’s been less controversial, possibly as it’s something we’ve come to expect from products in this category, but none the less it too has received complaints. Tom Ford’s marketing people say it’s “sensuous, stylised and artistic” – unfortunately for the local residents complaining, the ASA agree. Have a scroll of some of the images and decide for yourselves…