Social Media Throws Shade On The Idea That ‘Sex Sells’

The advertising motto of “sex sells” has been around forever. The shock value of sex always causes debate, and debate means awareness of a company’s brands and products. Despite this traditional advertising tactic, it appears that the prevailing attitude on social media is that quality and substance reign supreme over sex and sensationalism. The result of this shift in attitude is that companies and advertisers are changing their social media campaigns in an effort to attract and keep customers.

An example of this shift in consumers’ attitude is prominently illustrated in the recent events surrounding the “Beach Body Ready” advertising campaign utilized by the company, Protein World. The ads, first placed throughout the London Underground, featured a beautiful, slim woman in a tiny yellow bikini, posing the question whether commuters were beach body ready. Critics of the advertisements were quick to respond stating that the ads imply that only a slim figure could qualify to head to the beach.

Despite the huge backlash, which included a protest in London’s Hyde Park, several complaints to the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (the “ASA”) and a petition on that included greater than 70,000 signatures, the ASA concluded that the ads did not breach any U.K. rules relating to harm and offense or responsible advertising. Therefore, the ads “were not irresponsible.” Interestingly, the agency did state that the ads cannot run again because it found that the campaign improperly claimed the product’s health and weight loss abilities.

Regardless, Protein World remains unapologetic for its advertising campaign stating that the ads invited viewers to consider whether they were in the shape they wanted to be, and did not imply that everyone should look like the (likely photoshopped) model. Protein World chief executive officer, Arjun Seth, likened the feminists protesting the advertisements to terrorists and Sun columnist Katie Hopkins called the protesters “angry chubsters” on Twitter.

The advertising campaign and its resulting backlash and debate illustrates the point that social media created the awareness for the ads to be banned. This is a victory for social media, as it continues to demonstrate its ability to bypass government agencies that fail to delve into the issue of whether something is socially acceptable. It appears that substance and quality is gaining leaps and bounds over the quick sell of sex.

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