How Those Beach Body Ads Got it Wrong

ELLE’s Miette L. Johnson and Sophie Beresiner sound off on the ad that p*ssed off the internet. #eachbodysready

MOST POPULAR

*** Update ***

The ASA announced that after 360 complaints they would start an investigation into the Protien World ads. TFL have also confirmed that the ads are coming down starting today because the contracted period has come to an end. Whatever the reason, the absence of the ads will no doubt make for a happier commute for the 65,000 people who have signed the Change.org petiton requesting the removal. 

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Where do you stand on the campaign? Read two very different takes below, and then share yours with us on Twitter @ELLEuk

'This is a standards issue' – Miette L. Johnson, 33, ELLE Art Director

MOST POPULAR

Last week, an ad appeared in London Underground stations featuring an attractive, slim model in a bikini. That sounds harmless enough, until you actually read the print. It turns out the ad is advertising a new Weight Loss Collection from Protein World – insert record scratch here – featuring a series of supplements and meal replacement products meant to kick-start a multi-pound weight drop. The tagline: 'Are You Beach Body Ready?' Oh boy.

As you’d imagine, the backlash was swift and furious. Protests were organised (the biggest – Taking Back The Beach – will happen in Hyde Park on 2 May), petitions were circulated (50,000 names and counting on change.org) and complaints were filed (the Advertising Standards Authority has already received 216). Protein World hasn’t exactly helped matters; the CEO responded to repeated challenges with some pretty outrageous replies, and come Monday morning, the ads were being torn down, defaced and 'corrected' to read #EachBodysReady.  (For reference, take a gander at the acts of protest happening through the hashtag on TWitter and Instagram.)

In short, it pissed off a lot of people. And it didn’t sit well with me either. Here’s why. I’m an active consumer of protein (120g a day to be exact, the equivalent of 19 eggs). I train quite a bit and I like to think I am a well-adjusted, mentally sound human being without any particular body hang-ups. I eat well. I count macronutrients. I tit-tan in Spain. And I’ve run two marathons and seven half-marathons. So according to Protein World, I am beach body ready. And yet the ad still doesn’t speak effectively to me.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

It’s one thing to use an attractive, slim woman in an advertisement. It’s another to take her body, slap it next to the words 'The Weight Loss Collection' and therefore imply that any woman who doesn’t look like the former needs to take the latter. I’m an Art Director and look at pictures of women with enviable bodies constantly. It’s part of my job. But I also look at images of gorgeous women in all shapes, sizes and ethnicities — from our current plus-size cover star Rebel Wilson to the very runway model-size Jasmine Tookes, who stars in an inside fashion feature. I spend my day creating, sourcing and analysing images of women. And I can say that each is beautiful in her own right. We’ve collectively evolved past obsessing over the one narrow ideal. The sheer number of women reacting on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and more prove this. It’s so outdated and just plain silly to assume that our ultimate summer goal is to morph into some unrealistic character created through the male gaze. Protein World has underestimated us. And that bothers me most.

The sex angle at work here also heightens my discomfort. Is Protein World targeting women or undersexed men?  Presumably, they’re selling products meant to make you stronger. All it takes is a cursory review of current fitness advertising aimed at women – in which the strong, the brave and the determined are all championed – to see where the conversation about the female body has progressed to. Have a quick look at #ThisGirlCan, #FitNotThin or #GirlGains. Most women I meet want to be fit, healthy and really f*cking strong. How have they missed this completely?

Call it a feminist issue if you want to. I'm going to broaden the scope and call it a standards issue. These ads aren't good enough. It would seem the public agrees. Between now and the point when I first began writing this story, the number of signatures on the Change.org petition to have the ads removed by the Advertising Standards Authority has jumped to 51,387. I’d wager that each of those names are attached to a different body. I look forward to seeing them at the beach. Join us whenever you're ready.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

'Diet is a dirty word to me and skinny is not in my repertoire' – Sophie Beresiner, 35, ELLE Beauty Director

Each of us is beautiful!💁🏻#everyBODYisbeautiful #happytuesday #eachbodysready

A photo posted by Christine Amadeo-Sanchez (@_reallychris_) on

MOST POPULAR

The sight of a bikini-clad model on a London Underground advert is like white noise to me now. I don't really look at it. I think nothing more than, ‘Pffft, I don't look like that.' And then carry on reading my paper. I read 'protein' on an ad and think of hardcore gym-goers, people who are dedicated to sculpting their bodies, Craig David on Instagram — you get the idea. But the thing that has got me about the recent 'Are you beach body ready?' messaging is not in the phrasing (I sometimes use it myself in ELLE), but the irresponsibility of the imagery. It is so unattainable that it borders on false advertising, and I worry that anyone with body hang-ups — 98% of the population, myself included — won't read the small print. I fear that the most vulnerable of us might even buy into the idea of the skinny quick fix because the idea has been planted.  

It’s how advertising works. You don't pay close attention to the commercial breaks between Game Of Thrones, but nevertheless you feel an urge to do all your Christmas shopping in John Lewis this year.

When I use any combination of the words ‘beach’, ‘body’ or ‘ready’ in my writing for ELLE, it is essentially with grooming in mind. I will extol the virtues of waxing my bikini line (it is then and only then that I am bikini-ready) or buffing my skin smoother. But diet is a dirty word to me and skinny is not in my repertoire.

There are many ways to feel more confident in a bikini, like exercising for instance, or maintaining as healthy a diet as you can manage around the fun you factor into your life (which,  in my case, often involves food). Or by taking on the mantra that Whole Foods have adopted in their wholly more positive London Underground ad messaging, which is running simultaneously: 'Treat your body like it belongs to someone you love.'

Now that is a message that's worth considering. It makes me reconsider the ready meal I wouldn't want my mum to eat because of its high sodium content, and do a home-cooked version instead. It certainly resonates with me more than the Protein World ads ever will.

In short, I’m bikini-ready whether or not I've cut out carbs for a couple of weeks to try and deflate my stomach a bit (who doesn't?). I’m beach-ready as soon as I board the plane, with my bags packed for the next holiday, because I'm so ready to hit the beach — and because I’ve bloody well earned it. 

What do you think? Tweet us your views using the hashtag #ELLEfeminism and join the debate.

Read Next: