It’s the advertising campaign that launched a thousand outraged tweets, along with guerilla attacks, newspaper splashes and bikini-ed protests from people keen to promote body positivity. So the ruling from the ASA that Protein World’s ‘Are You Beach Body Ready?’ advert is “not offensive” comes as a bit of a surprise to me, and I can only assume that the 70,000 people who signed the online petition that called to ban the ad feel much the same.
The claim brought to the ASA stated that Protein World’s advert suggested the inferiority of any body shape other than the ‘idealised’ figure of the fitness model. And that paired with the slogan, and on an ad for weight loss, it was irresponsible. But the ASA have replied that they don’t consider the image to be shaming women with bodies of other sizes, or pressuring them to take weight loss products.
The decision is confusing, as part of the ASA handbook states that causing “serious or widespread offence” is grounds for a ruling. So what about the over 400 people who initially complained to the ASA, or the tens of thousands who took the time to sign the online petition, or the women who walked confidently into tube stations all over London wearing their bikinis in protest? There’s even been a backlash to the campaign in New York, after it recently popped up Stateside.
The advert has sparked many a debate on body shaming and misogyny. Women all over the world, not just female commuters on the Tube faced with this canary yellow farce, are slapped in the face every day with new reasons to feel unhappy with their physical appearance. We are continually bombarded with examples of how we should look: slim, but still curvy; able; tanned but not dark; and with a pleasing bone structure that’s determined by genetics and not make-up. Campaigns like Protein World's use our bodies to sell products and try to make us conform to impossible beauty standards that have an ever-growing price tag and ever-growing reach –something the ASA should be condemning.
The ASA had the opportunity to lead by example with this investigation. There’s a social responsibility when it comes to what we consume, forcibly or otherwise, and with Protein World, that seems to have been ignored. Protein World isn’t about feeling good about yourself or being the healthiest you that you can be. It’s about pushing pills that play on confidence and body consciousness.
The ASA should be promoting a body-positive narrative that’s inclusive of all shapes, races and genders. Advertising continually objectifies us, and letting Protein World away with this and labeling it “non-offensive” only makes us feel more ashamed and discouraged. The ASA is validating something that’s dangerous, and sadly, doesn't look like it will be going away any time soon.
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