Protein world continues to attract the ire of people travelling the underground in London, as the above billboard featuring Khloe Kardashian mimicking "Flashdance" 80s style in a leotard and legwarmers attracted complaints. Fourteen complainants, believed the ads promoted an unhealthy and competitive approach to dieting, objected that the ads were socially irresponsible because of the line "can you keep up with a Kardashian?"
Once again, I find the pun itself to be a bigger sin. A couple of years ago the "Beach Body" billboard spawned several spoofs from other brands, as well as bomb threats and protests but even then the billboards were not banned. Final judgement was that they were "not socially irresponsible".
Protein World defended their "Kardashian" pun, and said the overall response they had received to the ad was that it was motivating and empowering. They do not believe their ad was socially irresponsible.
The ASA judgement:
We considered that the ads promoted Khloe Kardashian’s body image as desirable and aspirational; this was supported by her pose and the airbrushed style. However, we did not consider that she appeared to be out of proportion or unhealthy.
We considered that people would understand the phrase “Can you keep up with a Kardashian?” was double entendre; to be understood as referencing both the popular TV series “Keeping up with the Kardashians” which Khloe Kardashian appeared in and the use of Protein World’s products to achieve a desirable body image. We further considered that readers would regard “Take the 30 Day Challenge” read in conjunction with the former phrase and the product name "The Slender Blend" to mean that if they used Protein World’s products and followed the "challenge" regime they could lose weight.
We acknowledged that the use of the terms “Can you keep up with …” and “challenge” could be interpreted as having a competitive quality, but we did not consider that the terms or the ads overall encouraged excessive weight loss or other extreme or potentially harmful dieting behaviour. We therefore concluded the ads were not socially irresponsible.
Now, if we could only ban puns.