When Protein World posted an advertisement in London Underground subways earlier this year to promote its line of diet shakes and supplements, the company probably wasn’t expecting that its ads — which ask women, “Are You Beach Body Ready?” — would be banned from the U.K. by the Advertising Standards Authority.
It probably wasn’t expecting that over 71,000 people would sign a petition on Change.org, asking the company to abandon the ad campaign, nor that such a small campaign (costing around £250,000, according to Business Insider) would cause such a big scene.
The company should have expected that displaying the same advertisement in New York City would garner similar responses, yet Protein World nevertheless decided to install the larger-than-life ad in the middle of Times Square on 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, according to Adweek and the Gothamist.
When more than 33% of pedestrians admit they notice even the most mundane outdoor advertisements, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that Protein World’s bright yellow billboard, featuring swimsuit-clad model Renee Somerfield, is hard to miss.
From an advertising perspective, the campaign has actually been successful. Whereas the supplement company was a fairly unknown brand at the beginning of the year, thousands of people now know where to go if they decide to diet. Furthermore, sales reportedly increased after all the notoriety, Business Insider states, and the free publicity boosted sales revenue by £1 million (about $1.5 million).
But as Adweek has explained, the overwhelming negative brand that Protein World has created for itself — first through the advertisements, and then through the company’s unapologetic attitude — isn’t likely to last.
Other companies have already taken to mocking the campaign, such as Carlsberg, which asked its consumers if they were “beer body ready.” Plus-size clothing line Swimsuits For All debuted a new ad campaign with plus-size model Denise Bidot in untouched photos — and yes, that means plenty of visible cellulite — accompanied by the hashtag #BeachBodyNotSorry.
Unlike the response to Protein World’s advertisements, all of these humorous and body-positive ad campaigns have quickly gained plenty of praise from consumers.
There’s something to be said for a business that digs in its heels when the going gets rough, but it seems like Protein World has already lost this battle.