Ads that promote unhealthy or unrealistic body image expectations will be banned from public transportation in London, the city's newly elected mayor Sadiq Khan said this week.
"As the father of two teenage girls, I am extremely concerned about this kind of advertising, which can demean people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies," Khan told reporters. Banning the ads was part of Khan's election platform.
"It is high time it came to an end. Nobody should feel pressurised, while they travel on the Tube or bus, into unrealistic expectations surrounding their bodies, and I want to send a clear message to the advertising industry about this," he said.
Khan's move, just a month after being elected mayor of London, follows controversy over a series of ads for a protein supplement company's weight loss products that hit London's buses and tube stations last summer:
The ads were criticized for the slogan "Are you beach body ready?" and defaced all over London:
When the company, Protein World, took their ads to New York City last year, they caused similar controversy, with some saying that they were irresponsible and objectifying of women.
The company has defended their ads throughout their campaigns in the U.K. and the U.S., responding with tweets like these:
Protein World Chief Executive Arjun Seth called the women protesting the ad in the U.K. "terrorists" in an interview with Channel 4 News. He said the women were "extremist, they shout a lot, these people are irrational and extremist, vandalising adverts."
The UK's Advertising Standards Authority decided against banning the ads last year, even after receiving hundreds of complaints. The watchdog wrote in its decision: “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."
But London's transit authority is banning the ad because they consider advertising on public transportation to be different to advertising in magazines, on television, or on private property.
"Our customers cannot simply switch off or turn a page if an advertisement offends or upsets them and we have a duty to ensure the copy we carry reflects that unique environment," Graeme Craig, TfL's commercial development director, told The Independent.