Remember Protein World? How could you forget. The British protein powder company hustled its way onto the fitness scene in 2015 with a large scale outdoor campaign featuring a toned woman in a lurid yellow bikini tagged with the now infamous line – ‘Are you beach body ready?’
Cue more than 370 complaints made to the Advertising Standards Authority slamming the ‘socially irresponsible’ tone of the advert and a Change.org petition with more than 40,000 signatures demanding to have the ad removed.
Despite the backlash, Protein World emerged unscathed. Not only did the company gain a vital shot of publicity, its ads were cleared by the ASA, which decided the campaign’s impact on body image was “not irresponsible” and was therefore “unlikely to cause offence”.
Undeterred by the furore surrounding the ‘Beach Body’ campaign, Protein World went one step further in January 2017 revealing Khloe Kardashian as the face of its 30-Day Challenge. The outdoor campaign featured the reality TV star in a tight white leotard and leg warmers, with the tagline “Can You Keep Up with a Kardashian?”
Once again the regulator was forced to step in after the advert received 14 complaints from consumers who believed the ads promoted an unhealthy and competitive approach to dieting. Again the ad was cleared, with the ASA ruling that overall the campaign did not encourage excessive weight loss or potentially harmful dieting behaviour.
What a difference a year makes. Whereas in January 2017 consumers were being dared to keep up with an airbrushed Kardashian, this year Protein World’s whole brand image has undergone a dramatic transformation.
The new #EveryBodyWorks campaign feels like the work of a completely different brand, shunning the past allegations of bikini shaming and competitive dieting in favour of a collective, inclusive approach to fitness firmly rooted in the wellness trend.
The hyper-toned models and celebrities have been ditched in favour of real people and influencers of all different shapes and sizes. Gone are the scantily clad, sun-kissed models seen in its ‘New Year, New You’ TV campaign in 2016. For the #EveryBodyWorks campaign, Protein World has chosen a squad mentality, showing friends pulling each other through their fitness journey, drinking its Slender Blend powder while they juice and train together.
One scene on the Instagram video even shows a new mum practicing a yoga pose with her baby swaddled against her chest.
The positioning is as far removed from the aspirational – and unattainable – beach body ideal as you can imagine. It reads: ‘You may be a believer. You may be a dreamer. You may be an inbetweener. It doesn’t matter. We’re all in this together.’
Significantly, with this campaign Protein World has put real women front and centre, showing their progression over four weeks since starting to use its products. The focus is on their feelings of confidence and positivity rather than any form of competition.
On Instagram especially the tone feels much more female friendly, replacing the aggressive, almost masculine world of protein supplements with cute personalised Slender Blend jars and DIY smoothie recipes.
It is fair to say that Protein World is well aware of how dramatic this shift really is. The brand’s official Twitter account is happy to retweet consumers calling the brand out for “changing their tune.” The company clearly understands that this shift in tone is publicity generating in it’s own right.
Whether this is a cynical play to tap into the wellness trend after cashing in on years of high profile negative publicity, or a genuine attempt to grow up, Protein World’s decision to ditch the unattainable beach bodies is surely nothing but a good thing.