THE BLOG

Did Protein World Create the Greatest Ad Campaign Ever?

05/05/2015 11:59 BST | Updated 04/05/2016 10:12 BST

In a week that saw thousands die from an earthquake in Nepal, a protein supplement continued to cause tremors in London.

A hugely contentious advertising campaign for a company called Protein World asked men and women whether they were 'beach body ready'. A phrase defined by the models in the poster, who boasted the body types that have come to typify our twenty first century beauty tropes - slender, muscular, and for many of us, unobtainable.

Both women and men are bombarded constantly with images of 'perfection' - heavily styled and photoshopped pictures showing us what we should look like. That these images can be damaging is unquestionable, but because of the idea that only a certain body type should be allowed on the beach, the Protein World campaigned provoked the ire of thousands of people.

Posters were defaced, instagrammed, facebooked, and many a blog post written. All fair enough. A march was organised. The complaints continued to roll in.

All a very noble cause - after all, the notion of beauty as a ubiquitous ideal, a commodity created through fiscal transaction, is an unpleasant one.

The pressure on women, and increasing pressure on men, has surely started to reach its zenith. How much longer will people accept this imagery? Not a second more, this protest seemed to suggest.

Of course the ad campaign had its supporters. The usual suspects came out of the woodwork to slam the protests, with one particularly unpleasant columnist and reality tv contestant slamming those who complained about the campaign as 'fat'. No originality, no surprises there.

A chasm was created, and everyone had to pick a side. Do you condemn the protestors as lazy and overweight ne'er do wells, or bash the company for jumping on the body shaming bandwagon?

There was no middle ground.

Many people become blind to these images: we see them all the time, and maybe they filter into our subconscious. Any newsagents will feature a number of magazines with unhumanly attractive models on the cover. But this one struck a chord, with angry protests spilling out of digital realms and into civil disobedience, with some clever work defacing the posters.

Protein World adopted a defence of offence, belittling those who tweeted in complaints. So far, so childish. More outrage provoked, more column inches garnered. People who'd never heard of the company were now talking about them, sales spiked, and hashtags started trending.

The more people complained, the more return the company saw on its original campaign cost of a reported $370k.

When the company reached the end of their campaign, they boasted increased turnover, a much wider customer base, and recognised branding.

Which all, rather depressingly, proves the old adage that no publicity is bad publicity, and begs the question: was this the best advert ever?