The ASA has ruled the "Beach Body" billboard "not socially irresponsible", and "unlikely to cause offence". There were in total 378 complainants, who raised issues of offense and potential harm which boiled down to two points:
- the ad implied that a body shape which differed from the 'idealised' one presented was not good enough or in some way inferior and was, therefore, offensive
- the combination of an image of a very slim, toned body and the headline "ARE YOU BEACH BODY READY?" was socially irresponsible in the context of an ad for a slimming product.
While the ASA was investigating whether the ad was in breach of the advertising rules on harm, offence and social responsibility, Protein World was told by the ASA that the ad could not appear in its current form. The campaign had finished its paid for run in the UK underground at the time.
Now the ASA has reached their conclusion:
The ASA understood that the Copy Advice team had seen the ad prior to it appearing and advised that it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. We recognised that "beach body" was a relatively well understood term that for some people had connotations of a toned, athletic physique similar to the image of the model in the ad. We considered that it also had a broader meaning - that of feeling sufficiently comfortable and confident with one's physical appearance to wear swimwear in a public environment. 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 that the accompanying image implied that a different body shape to that shown was not good enough or was inferior. We concluded that the headline and image were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Although we understood the claim "Are you beach body ready?" invited readers to think about their figures, we did not consider the image of the model would shame women who had different body shapes into believing they needed to take a slimming supplement to feel confident wearing swimwear in public. For that reason, we concluded the ad was not irresponsible.
So grow up Harriet may very well become a meme, and the bomb threats and protests only ensured that the ad would be seen in earned media a lot more than in the tube. The ad even got so famous as to be spoofed by Lastminute.com and Carlsberg.