This is my second open letter to Protein World, you can read the first here.
Earlier this year the ‘Are you Beach Body Ready?’ adverts in the UK attracted over 70,000 signatures on a Change.org petition, asking you to take them down. Your adverts did come down in the end, but only when the advertising run was over. So now they’re back with a vengeance in New York, and I’m here to ask – did you learn nothing about your moral implications as an advertiser?
I’m aware that the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) deemed the advert NOT offensive because apparently it doesn’t imply women should look like the model, though the nature of your products would prove otherwise. How exactly are you NOT implying that the model is an image of slender perfection when the words next to her read ‘The Weight Loss Collection’?
I have no doubt that you have been made an example of through all of this, but that doesn’t let you off the hook. There are so many pictures of women all over the media which support the notion that thin is heathy and attractive, and fat is not. Maybe your advert itself doesn’t spell out the words ‘you need to look like this’ but we know that’s what you mean, you just won’t admit it. It of course isn’t all your fault that many people in our society would look at your advert and wish they could be thinner, the myth of ‘thinness means happiness’ is so ingrained in our society that it’s stems from way before your time. But you have the power to help change this. You have the power to be a good influence on other advertisers to avoid them copying your shame-preying style marketing techniques.
So the ASA deemed your advert OK, but I want to ask you on a moral level, on an emotional level, on a human level – please will you consider how these adverts affect people’s self-esteem? You may accuse them of having mental health problems or whatever it is you do, but so what if they do? Even more of a reason to start acting a little more socially responsible! We’re all human. We all struggle with issues surrounding our bodies at some point. How many kids will see your adverts on the New York subway? Children start dieting from an early age now as they’re so scared of getting fat. Your advert is only going to back that up.
I want to ask all the individual employees of Protein World, whatever your position – please think about the young people looking at those adverts. Please think about how they’re programming their brains and shaping their future, what messages they’re being fed about how they should look, and more importantly, what dietary choices they make. You sell fake protein – by this I mean not real food. People need real food. Children need to be taught how to eat a healthy balanced diet and how to exercise to find a comfortable weight and size, and how that comes in many different forms. Meal replacement is not something we should be teaching anyone, and that teamed with a picture of what many people see as ‘perfectionism’ is what is doing the most damage in society. Body image is at an all-time low and encouraging protein shakes, weight-loss plans and crash dieting is only setting people up to fail and feel even more ashamed of themselves. But I guess you’d know that, it’s how you make your money.
70,000 UK signatures is a lot of people, and I’m sure New York could get even more. Please listen to all these people and help build a less judgmental society instead of pretending you’re not perpetuating perfectionism and ideals on us. Please consider your social and moral responsibilities as an advertiser. It starts with you.