The “Are you beach body ready?” ad, which promoted the brand’s slimming product and featured a woman wearing a bikini, received 378 complaints after appearing throughout the London Underground.
The complaints claimed the ad implied that bodies different from the one pictured were “not good enough” or in some way inferior and that the combination of the image of a slim woman with the “Are you beach body ready?” phrase was “socially irresponsible”.
However after an investigation into the complaints around offence and social responsibility, the ASA has decided that the campaign was not in breach. It recognised that the term “beach body” is well understood to be related to toned, athletic bodies similar to the one pictured in the ad.
“We did not consider that the accompanying image implied that a different body shape to that shown was not good enough or was inferior,” the ASA stated.
“We concluded that the headline and image were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.”
The decision comes after a Change.org petition calling for the ad to be removed received over 40,000 signatures.
Commuters also defaced many of the ads and took to social media with the hash tag #EachBodysReady to express their anger.
In response to negative tweets about the campaign, Protein World CEO Arjun Seth wrote that “sales have tripled and the PR department just got their bonus” while the brand has defiantly re-tweeted numerous offensive tweets about its body image.
Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson branded the ads and the furore surrounding them “great marketing”.