Times Square is no stranger to controversial advertisements on a skyscraper scale, but a new eye-catching ad appears to be embracing the inevitable backlash before it begins.
Just in time for summer, Protein World — a nutritional supplement whose racy advertising sparked outrage in London this spring — has arrived in New York’s Times Square with a bikini-clad model and a single, frightening question:
“Are you beach body ready?”
In Britain, the Telegraph reported, the ad campaign was attacked by vandals, criticized on social media and targeted by a change.org petition that garnered the signatures of more than 70,000 body-image activists calling for the advertisement’s removal.
The ad was eventually banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), an independent advertising watchdog, according to People.
“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,” the ASA said in a statement published by People.
Looming above 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues, the Times Square ad is the first ad in a larger campaign that will inundate the city’s subway system with 8-second digital spots on “every New York subway entrance,” Richard Staveley, the company’s marketing chief, told Breitbard London.
Staveley, who called the London backlash “fantastic,” told Sky News that company executives weren’t expecting the exposure they’ve received. He portrayed the New York campaign as a kind of revenge.
“It’s a big middle finger to everybody who bothered to sign that stupid petition in the U.K.,” he said. “You could say that the London protesters helped pay for the New York campaign.”
“The Times Square billboard will really ram it home,” he added. “Then, from Monday, we’ve got ads booked on 50 percent of all of the New York subway’s rolling stock. It will be an unmissable blanket coverage of Renee and yellow.”
The change.org petition said Proten World’s ad, which features Austrailian model, Renee Somerfield, promoted guilt and intolerant beauty standards:
“Protein World is directly targeting individuals, aiming to make them feel physically inferior to the unrealistic* body image of the bronzed model, in order to sell their product.
*for the majority of people to ‘achieve’: everyone has an individual body shape
Perhaps not everyone’s priority is having a ‘beach body’ (by the way, what is that?), and making somebody feel guilty for not prioritising it by questioning their personal choices is a step too far. A body’s function is far more intricate and important than looking ‘beach ready’, so in fact it is Protein World who have confused their priorities, if anyone.
The question I would like to pose to whoever gave this advert the go-ahead would be: what is ‘Beach Body Ready’? And who would not be?”
Responding to a question about the petition, Protein World Chief Executive Arjun Seth went a step further than his marketing head, comparing the people destroying his ads in the London Underground to violent extremists in an interview with Channel 4 News.
“They’re terrorists, you can quote me on that,” he said.
Among the vandalized London ads, many were altered to read “Every Body’s Ready,” which went on to become a popular hashtag on Twitter.
— Her Voice (@TweetHerVoice) May 13, 2015
— CCR Expo (@CCR_expo) May 15, 2015
— Tara ⚡️ Catstello (@Catstello) April 24, 2015
— ColletteLyons (@collette_lyons) April 27, 2015
— Andrew Bloch (@AndrewBloch) April 29, 2015