An allegedly "sexist" ad from supplement firm Protein World has ignited a damning backlash on social media resulting in the physical vandalism of the actual ads in protest.
The 'Are You Beach Body Ready' ad campaign, which features in the London Underground, has been frequently vandalised by protestors unhappy with its comments on what a 'beach body' is.
Heavy social media criticism also drew a less than conventional defense from the brand on Twitter.
Laurence Hebberd, a senior account manager at Link Humans, was one of the first to notice Protein World's conduct on Twitter. His blog analysing the campaign resulted in him being blocked by the brand on the social media site.
— Laurence Hebberd (@LaurenceHebberd) April 16, 2015
A screen cap showed the almost aggressive tone taken by the brand against its critics.
Jesus @ProteinWorld, do you want that hole to be any deeper? (via @willpscott) pic.twitter.com/hvzYQ9s7gl — Laurence Hebberd (@LaurenceHebberd) April 24, 2015
As did comments from company chief executive Arjun Seth.
@daniellenewnham@JulietteBurton@ProteinWorld it sounds like Juliette had a lot of issues well before she saw the PW ad — Arjun Seth (@arjun_seth) April 24, 2015
On the other side of the spectrum, some users concerns with the campaign were met with unrelated and generic responses.
— Cecilia Dominici (@ceciliadom) April 16, 2015
The London Underground ads drummed up a substantial amount of hostility towards the brand, with many vandalised by protestors.
We love London. Fuck patriarchy. pic.twitter.com/bDeET7pzdO — The Vagenda Team (@VagendaMagazine) April 22, 2015
I am SO for the #eachbodysready hashtag!!! http://t.co/RcL72FzAt7 pic.twitter.com/U2HLRjR2zm — Tara Costello (@Catstello) April 23, 2015
so you know that sexist advert on the tube by @ProteinWorld? This is their *ACTUAL* response to it. pic.twitter.com/G8OoBk0wM3 — Rossalyn Warren (@RossalynWarren) April 24, 2015
— Tilly (@matilda_lowther) April 24, 2015
— Denise Ramsey (@DeniDenDen) April 18, 2015
Do we think White Goodman is in charge of the @ProteinWorld twitter account? #globogympic.twitter.com/PH2nWxAtJQ — WH (@will_full) April 24, 2015
On the brand's conduct, Hebberd told The Drum: "I think the brand went wrong with the ads. They're very specialist, but they've put them in the eyes of a wider audience. An audience that doesn't buy products like that, and they've used a controversial message on purpose.
"From there, the social media that followed made the situation worse. If you block someone, you give them what they want - a reaction. Deal with it with dignity or ignore."
He concluded: "I'm not sure if Protein World can recover from this - they seem to be basking in the glory, but still it's a massive negative response."
Despite his protests, Change.org is hosting a petition “Remove 'Are You Beach Body Ready' Advertisements”. It has received 33,791 signatories at the time of publication.
Richard Staveley, head of global marketing for Protein World, told the Huffington Post: “We absolutely have no intention of removing the adverts because of a minority making a lot of noise.
"We sell our products in over 50 countries to more than 300,000 customers. Most of them are women. How could we possibly be sexist? It is a shame that in 2015 there are still a minority who aren't focusing on celebrating those who aspire to be healthier, fitter and stronger.
He concluded: "Renee, our stunning model (inside and out by the way and falsely assumed as photoshopped!), falls well within what the British government deem to be a healthy weight (based on the BMI system)."
Protein World has since started re-tweeting inflammatory and offensive tweets about feminists and body image, blocking those calling the brand out on its behaviour on social media.