Beach body advert judged not irresponsible or offensive

beach bodyWe've all seen THAT advert. Whether in person around London tube stations or as part of the social media backlash, who'd have thought a golden image of a young lady in full possession of a beach body would constitute such an offensive advert.

Or did it? Owing to the massive number of complaints lodged (a whopping 378), before the ASA even investigated the advert, Protein World were told not to show the ad again. Protein World have always been totally unapologetic about their advert, even baiting Twitter users, and while they couldn't show the advert anymore, social media users gave them more media exposure than they could possibly have paid for.

Of course, the ad was taken down for causing widespread tutting, but the ASA did undertake a separate investigation to establish whether the ad was actually in breach of the advertising rules on harm, offence and social responsibility.

While all 378 complaints were not identical, the ASA collated issues into two threads, whether:

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.

Protein World said that the phrase "beach body" was commonly used and understood to mean looking at one's best and that they did not believe that the ad implied everyone should look like the model or that the text and image were irresponsible.

And the ASA agreed. They felt that "'beach body' was a relatively well understood term that for some people had connotations of a toned, athletic physique" but also that some people would understand it to mean "feeling sufficiently comfortable and confident with one's physical appearance to wear swimwear in a public environment." While the ASA considered the advert might "prompt readers to think about whether they were in the shape they wanted to be for the summer" they found that the image did not imply that a different body shape to that shown was "not good enough or was inferior" and therefore that the ad and the image were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. Of course, the ad did cause serious or widespread offence, but the ASA ruling is that Protein World couldn't have been expected to anticipate such a furore. The ASA also found that the ad was not 'irresponsible' under the CAP code as they "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."

So there you are, outraged public, you are wrong.


  • Josh
    It was never offensive in the first place to anybody but the perma-outraged. The real kicker is that for all the noise in the feminist blogosphere, only about 40 or so people turned up to their "reclaim the beach" protest in Hyde Park. Of course this was to be expected, slacktivists are only outraged enough to tweet, sign petitions and phone in bomb threats. Heaven forbid they should actually show up to their own protest. I must say that it's delightful to see publications from Cosmo and Marie Claire to the Guardian and Daily Mail still giving them free advertising by running this story. In their unwavering conviction that this ad is "offensive" or "body-shaming", they have given the company thousands of customers that are sick and tired of being told what should offend us. To quote the Protein World Twitter Account: Grow up Harriet.
  • Stu
    378 people complained, an unspecified number of other people were instructed by the Daily Mail (other non-news containing wastes-of-paper are available) that they, too, should feel offended by it, and this is out of how many tens or hundreds of thousands of people who saw the ad? Sheesh.
  • bhtb
    At last, some common sense from the judiciary!
  • Albi
    Healthy woman with ideal BMI shown in advert shocker.
  • Jeremy B.
    Never heard of "Beach Body". Beach - yes Body - yes In combination, just weird.
  • Squeezeoneout
    Sadly, the offenderati have already moved on.

What do you think?

Your comment