Update, 7/1: Remember those bikini ads that everyone hated in the UK that then came to the U.S. and everyone hated here? Those ads are apparently not considered offensive by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), an advertising watchdog in the UK.
A spokesperson for the ASA explained: "We considered the claim 'Are you beach body ready?' prompted readers to think about whether they were in the shape they wanted to be for the summer and we did not consider the accompanying image implied a different body shape to that shown was not good enough or was inferior."
In other words? "We concluded that the headline and image were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offense."
This, despite the fact that many people *did* find them offensive and even held protests and signed petitions. Okay.
In any case, we still won't be ordering whey protein.
Update, 5/29: You can call the Protein World people a lot of things, but you can't say they aren't not tactful.
After its ad was banned in the U.K. last month, the company has taken out a billboard in Times Square, serving as both the launch of a massive U.S. advertising campaign and "a big middle finger to everybody who bothered to sign that stupid petition," said Richard Staveley, Protein World's marketing director and delightful human being.
Beginning Monday, 8-second digital spots promoting the notion that one needs to take protein powder to lose weight and thus become presentable enough to go to the beach will play on subway entrances around the city. And nobody will notice because they're too busy trying to catch trains that take them to jobs that allow them to buy things that are a lot more fun than whey protein concentrate.
Update, 4/28: Richard Staveley, Protein World's marketing director, appeared on ITV's Good Morning Britain bearing a figurative shovel with which he dug his company into a deeper hole.
"We're asking if you, as an individual, have reached and attained your own goals that you set for yourself, that are going to allow you to put on your swimsuit," he said.
"I think the advert is applicable for this time of year; it's April, people have started to think about their summer holidays, and starting to think about their beach bodies. Not everybody, of course. We have a base of 300,000 of which 84 percent are female. We did meticulous research and asked them what they wanted to see, and this was the answer."
Stavely also said Protein World's offices have received a bomb threat in response to the ad.
Original post, 4/27: If you have a body and go to the beach, then you have a beach body. But the term "beach body" is a loaded one, and it's often associated with an unrealistic ideal. So when dietary supplement maker Protein World plastered London's subways with "beach body" ads, people got angry.
More than 45,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to remove the ads, which ask "Are You Beach Body Ready?" and feature a slender woman in a swimsuit next to their "weight loss" collection.
"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," Charlotte Baring, the author of the petition, wrote.
Some people have also decided to add their own messages to the ads on public transportation:
Protein World's CEO, Arjun Seth, told Channel 4 News that the ads are simply "aspirational," and he won't take them down unless the petition reaches 1 million signatures. He said the vandals are "terrorists, you can quote me on that."
The company elaborated in a statement:
It is a shame that in 2015 there are still a minority who aren't focusing on celebrating those who aspire to be healthier, fitter and stronger. Renee, our stunning model, falls well within what the British Government deem to be a healthy weight, based on the BMI system. We now run Britain's largest protein facility, selling our products in over 50 countries to more than 300,000 customers. Most of them are women. How could we possibly be sexist? Getting "beach ready" is not a new concept. [...] We absolutely have no intention of removing the adverts because of a minority making a lot of noise.
But the backlash is still going strong. In fact, a group of activists even filmed a video of themselves spreading the word against the ads:
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