The new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan bans images on public transport in London that promote an unrealistic body image.
Do you remember that advertising campaign last year that caused uproar? Against a bright yellow background, a model stood in a bikini with the words ‘Are you beach ready?’ It was for the weight loss collection by Protein World, and if you swallowed their shakes instead of eating a healthy, balanced diet, you too could look like that tiny-waisted, thigh-gapped ideal of feminine beauty. When it was plastered all over the London tube, it was defaced and eventually banned by the Advertising Standards Authority, whose initial investigated responded to “complaints that have prompted concerns around body confidence.” Advertisements, especially fashion campaigns, are often deemed the catalyst for body image issues and eating disorders. With their cocktail of models, make up and extreme Photoshop, they promote unrealistic expectations of what we should look like.
The new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is now fulfilling one of his campaign promises and taking a stance against potentially damaging imagery. As of July, Transport for London will not allow ads which could reasonably be seen as causing pressure to achieve a certain body ideal. TfL are also being encouraged to create an Advertising Steering Group with its advertising partners and stakeholders to ensure the policy is maintained.
Speaking of the initiative, Khan says: “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. It is high time it came to an end. Nobody should pressurised, when 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.”
Ian Twinn, a spokesperson for the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, welcomed the move from Khan, but wanted to be cautious about the policy’s use. “Parents don’t want their children to see ads of models who are unhealthily thin and send out a message that this is what you should look like,” he says. “Equally, we don’t want people who are comfortably chubby threatening to ban perfectly reasonable ads. We are not meant to go around with excessive fat on our waists. If fat is the new normal, we don’t want that to be the reason to censor people who are not fat. That seems barmy.”
In the UK, recent research has suggested that up to 6.4% of adults have shown signs of an eating disorder, meanwhile 61.7% of adults in England are either overweight or obese. Both statistics show that something must be done to radically alter our diets and lifestyles – it may take a lot more than banning a few pictures, but it might also be a good place to start.