ASA gives Protein World 3 days to remove controversial ‘beach body’ campaign

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

“It’s coming down in the next three days," says ASA on Protein World beach body campaign
“It’s coming down in the next three days," says ASA on Protein World beach body campaign

Related tags Asa Protein world

Protein World has promised to remove its ‘beach body’ campaign in three days after a meeting yesterday with the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

A spokesperson for the authority told us: “It’s coming down in the next three days and, due to our concerns about a range of health and weight loss claims made in the ad, it can’t appear again in its current form.”

The ASA said it had also launched a wider investigation to determine if the campaign broke any harm and offence rules or was socially irresponsible.

“We will now carefully and objectively explore the complaints that have prompted concerns around body confidence and promptly publish our findings.”

The ASA received 277 complaints about the advert critics said induced body image anxiety in its use of a slim model next to caffeine diet pills and the question “Are you beach body ready?” 

Some asked if this suggested only those who fitted this particular body mould should bare their bikinis in public.

Protein World petition

Protein World and its supporters said its products stood for a positive idea of fitness.

The posters on the London tube network that sparked the debate will also be taken down today as the three-week contract has concluded. However the image still featured on the company's Facebook page and The Weight Loss Collection products still sold on its website with the same accompanying marketing, despite an earlier ASA ruling. 

Earlier this month the ASA upheld nine complaints​ of misleading marketing and non-compliance with EU food law relating to ‘Fat Melter’ capsules, ‘Slender Blend’, ‘CLA powder’, ‘Aceytl L-Carnitine’, ‘Chlorella’ and ‘Lean Muscle’.

Ads on the table

This point has largely been ignored by the mainstream media - that the claims on helping customers lose weight are unsubstantiated according to EU food law.

Asked if this would be on the agenda, the ASA said: "In this instance we’re looking at the claims made in the current campaign, but the previous ruling is applicable to claims wherever they appear and we’re having constructive conversations with Protein World to help them comply."

Most of the changes from the earlier ASA ruling were made. However the firm still used the brand name ‘Slender Blend’ which the ASA said was in itself an unauthorised health claim implying weight loss. On its website the company continues to claim the product could be used as a meal replacement twice daily.

weight loss collection

The ASA is a non-statutory organisation so its rulings are not legally binding, although if a company fails to make the necessary changes to its marketing material it can forward the issue onto the Trading Standards which could then prosecute. 

Facing the consequences?

The previous ruling saw the company thrown out of the trade group​ the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA). NutraIngredients understood that the firm failed to reply to ESSNA’s request for a meeting on the issue.

ESSNA declined to comment on this latest development.

Whilst technically voluntary, the ASA does have certain powers available to it.  Companies who flout the law can be added to its list of non-compliant advertiser​s​. Those on the list are named and shamed on its website and may be subjected to penalisation through ASA’s partnership with search engine operators​. 

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) can ask internet search engines to remove a company's paid-for search ads linking to the non-compliant marketing. It can also launch its own AdWords campaign against the company, which would feature on search engines and tell searchers that the company was in the ASA's bad books. 

ASA communications and marketing manager Matt Wilson told us there were no plans to add Protein World to the list.

There is currently no danger of Protein World being put on our non-compliant advertiser list. They’ve willingly engaged with us and are keen to work with us on making sure their ad claims abide by the rules.”

Cases can also be referred to the courts.

Protein World, which said it had seen a sales spike caused by the furore, did not comment on the outcome of the ASA meeting, or its full compliance intentions. 

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