Skip to main content

London's Mayor Bans Body Shaming Ads on Public Transport

Sadiq Khan wants to "send a clear message" to the advertising industry.
  • Author:
  • Updated:
The ad in question. Photo: Protein World

The ad in question. Photo: Protein World

London's new mayor Sadiq Khan is fulfilling his pledge to make the city's morning commute a friendlier place for tube riders. According to the Guardian, Khan has asked Transport for London to stop running any body-shaming ads, citing concerns that such spots “can demean people, particularly women."

The ad that inspired this move was last year's controversial spot from Protein World, which asked if tube riders were "beach body ready." Somewhat ironically, the ad was not banned by the Advertising Standards Authority, which has banned ads by Gucci and Saint Laurent in the past for featuring models it deemed too thin. The ASA reported in 2015 that the Protein World spot was one of the most complained about ads, with 380 cases filed. (For perspective, the Gucci and Saint Laurent spots received just one complaint each.) The complaints were not withheld, with the ASA ruling:

We considered the claim "Are you beach body ready?" prompted readers to think about whether they were in the shape they wanted to be for the summer and we did not consider that the accompanying image implied that a different body shape to that shown was not good enough or was inferior. We concluded that the headline and image were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. [...] Although we understood the claim "Are you beach body ready?" invited readers to think about their figures, we did not consider the image of the model would shame women who had different body shapes into believing they needed to take a slimming supplement to feel confident wearing swimwear in public.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Transport for London has been asked to work in partnership with advertising agencies Exterion Media and JCDecaux, which run an estimated 12,000 ads a year and bring in approximately £1.5 billion. Graeme Craig, Transport for London's commercial development director, cited the unique situation facing advertising in public transit. "Our customers cannot simply switch off or turn a page if an advertisement offends or upsets them and we have a duty to ensure the copy we carry reflects that unique environment," he says.

In a statement, Khan said, "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 feel pressurised, while 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."

Your move, Mayor De Blasio. 

Sign up for our daily newsletter and get the latest industry news in your inbox every day.