It occurred to me last night that I might not have been seeing the bigger picture.
Imagine this: you have a weight loss product you want to sell. It’s protein-based, like many others on the market. You create an ad to be displayed on public transport. Do you:
A) hope it works
B) hire a bunch of pale size 12 girls in bikinis to fake their outrage, deface your posters and generate huge amounts of publicity knowing that anyone truly offended isn’t in your target market anyway then watch your revenue climb to £2m in a month
I’m not saying that’s what happened, but it’s not a bad theory either. Besides, all marketing is manipulative. And if it’s not, it’s not very good marketing.
If you’ve been riding the Underground in the last couple of months you’ll have probably noticed the bright yellow advertisements for Protein World. In case you missed it, here it is:
‘Are You Beach Body Ready?’ has caused a bit of a stink in the UK with feminists, prompting protests in Hyde Park by those who are less traditionally model-shaped, all up in arms about a company supposedly telling them they don’t deserve to grace the beach unless they look like the gorgeous Aussie model on the billboard.
It got me thinking. Is this really the message they are sending here? Or is it the insecurities of the masses (pun intended) that are reading a bit too much into it?
Thing is, Protein World haven’t really done anything ground-breaking here.
Case in point:
If you can’t be bothered to watch it, here’s the crib notes: A woman goes to the beach and everyone stops, stares and waits for her to undress to her bikini. She reveals that she is indeed slim and tanned to the relief of several thousand people in the advert. Thank fuck she went to Boots, eh? Applying the same logic you could say that Boots are also sending out the message that unless you buy their beauty products people will judge you and you shouldn’t be on the beach.
In fact, every summer Boots lathers, rinses and repeats the same message.
Using the example above should I consider myself not deserving of better weather until I smell nice and have a great (fake) tan? No.
Do I not belong in nation’s capital unless I have the ‘London Look’ (Rimmel) or am I not ‘worth it’ if I don’t buy L’Oreal products. Of course not.
Protein World’s only crime is being a bit more succinct in their delivery.
Fact is, many (but, unfortunately for the NHS, not all) of us like to look our best. Whether that is to make other people happy or ourselves. It doesn’t even matter. The only problem with the tube advert is that only one type of ‘beach body’ is shown. One ideal of what perfect health looks like. And I don’t blame Protein World for this because it’s the one people identify with, the one reinforced by glossy magazines and television celebrities. The one where physical success is measured in dress size and weight.
Put one of the models above in the advert and despite each and every one of them being top of their game, they would be criticised too. Jessica Ennis-Hill, Rebecca Adlington and the like have often been ridiculed for their proportions. The very same bodies that have earned them Olympic gold medals.
Protein World was therefore always going to offend someone with their ad.
In an over-connected world where we consume media on a near-constant basis, the message has to be punchy and direct. ‘Beach Body’ is a short-handed way to convey a state of peak health that the general public can relate to and strive for. Reading a deeper message into it is frankly not their problem.
It is feasible for me to look like the model in the ad? No. Everybody’s ‘beach ready’ look is different. However, I could improve my state of health to a place where I would feel happier with how I look and feel.
And with that, I’m putting the (pitch)fork down and grabbing a shake.
See you on the beach.