‘Beach Body’ Ads That Spurred Protest Will Be Removed and Investigated

The controversial poster has already been parodied by brands preaching body acceptance.
(Photo: Twitter)
Apr 30, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

Whether or not you live in London, you’ve likely already seen the bold yellow banners causing an uproar in the tube. The advertisements for weight loss company Protein World show a blond woman wearing a yellow string bikini next to five of the most contentious consecutive words in the English language: “Are you beach body ready?”

For outraged Brits, who have defaced the ads with scribbled statements such as “Body is not a commodity” and “Stop encouraging women to starve themselves,” the posters will no longer stare back at them during commutes on the London Underground.

Protein World has fulfilled its three-week contract on the Underground, so the ads are being removed this week, and they will not reappear in their current form, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.

“We’ve met with Protein World to discuss its ‘Are you beach body ready?’ ad campaign,” a spokesperson for the Advertising Standards Authority said in a statement. “It’s coming down in the next three days and, due to our concerns about a range of health and weight loss claims made in the ad, it can’t appear again in its current form.” Protein World did not respond to a request for comment.

The ASA, an advertising watchdog organization that fielded more than 350 complaints about the Protein World campaign, has launched an investigation into whether the ads are socially irresponsible and breach the U.K. code relating to taste and decency. “We will now carefully and objectively explore the complaints that have prompted concerns around body confidence and promptly publish our findings,” an ASA spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the woman who appeared in the ads—23-year-old Australian model Renee Sommerfield—says the uproar is misguided. “I think nearly every ad campaign you have ever seen is open to interpretation. But saying the ad is body shaming by body shaming the image is very contradictory,” she told Huffington Post UK Lifestyle. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

The ASA investigation comes after more than 66,000 people signed a Change.org petition calling for the advertisement’s removal. The petition’s creator, Charlotte Baring, wrote that Protein World was targeting people to “make them feel physically inferior to the unrealistic body image of the bronzed model, in order to sell their product.”

A “Taking Back the Beach” protest that aims to gather swimsuit-wearing people of all sizes to show that every body is a “beach body” is slated for Saturday in London’s Hyde Park.

Brands are also getting in on the hype. The American bathing suit retailer Swimsuits for All created its own version of the original ad, replacing Protein World’s spokesperson with plus-size model Ashley Graham. Travel booking website lastminute.com created a version of the poster that reads, “Our beaches are ready for every body!”