Ads Gone Bad: The Worst Body-Shaming Advertisements

Advertising still relies on our collective bad body image to drive home its messages.
PETA was forced to take down this billboard after a public backlash against the animal rights group. (Photo: Tumblr)
Sep 6, 2013· 2 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Body shaming in the advertising industry is an age-old tactic. Women have always been urged to fix all that is inherently undesirable about them, and judging from advertising's history, that constitutes an infinite list of gaffes to be improved upon, eradicated, or hidden.

But it's no longer a practice relegated to beauty and fashion ads—or to women. Shaming people in general about their physical appearance is now easily visible in campaigns ranging from pro-vegan advertisements to billboards encouraging childhood health.

It may be we've gotten so used to body shame, we don't even see it anymore. But the longer we accept a singular, narrowly defined version of health and beauty, the longer we'll accept that making people feel bad about themselves is not only "helpful," but it's also deserved.

Scroll down for some of the most overt body shaming ads from past and present campaigns.

From Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, these were part of a campaign aimed at encouraging people to eat a plant-based diet.

This came from, a website that encourages people to cheat on their partners.

Georgia's Strong4Life campaign last year came under fire for humiliating kids, and using scare tactics in a misguided attempt to turn the tables on childhood obesity.

Bypost is a company that sells iPhone apps. But over the summer, they sent this (now deleted) tweet warning consumers not to offend anyone with their choice of dress.

This vintage ad from Grape Nuts, says there's only one "right" size.

A 15-year-old recently launched a campaign to get Facebook to stop posting ads like this one, aimed at her and her friends.

Marry-a-Millionaire undergarments wanted women to squeeze their body parts into desirable shapes so they could land a rich husband. It's not that far off from undergarment ads of today.

Another ad from PETA, which seems to imply that you can enjoy the TSA's invasion of your privacy if you have a body that looks like this.

Lucky Strikes warns women to hold on to their slender figures, so light up, ladies.

Alcoholism may be dangerous to your health, but looking like a man would be the greater tragedy.

Palmolive wants you to know it's all your fault that no one loves you.

Oatmeals in New York City warns patrons that thin is in for summer.

Cruelty sells.

Co-opting cliches to boost sales.

Finally, Ralph Lauren famously photoshopped this already trim model into a figure that was unsettling for many, resulting in the company's public apology.