Weight loss company Diet Chef has felt the heavy hand of the advertising law after a TV ad for its food delivery service was battered for implying that the only route to happiness was by shedding the extra pounds.
The ad, devised by Space City Productions, ran in July, and featured a character called Cheryl talking to her former self two months after starting Diet Chef.
“Slim Cheryl” then went on to tell “Fat Cheryl” how good it was to be slim again, proclaiming: “I bought a bikini last week, for the first time since this picture”, to which Fat Cheryl replied: “I want it, I want what you’ve got.”
The former Cheryl was shown wearing a baggy shirt and with messy hair and appeared distressed, with the current Cheryl shown in a more fitted outfit with a more polished appearance and a happier demeanour. Both versions of the character were played by the same actor.
Twenty-six viewers complained to the Advertising Standards Authority. They believed that the ad exploited women’s insecurities about their bodies by implying that you needed to be slim in order to be attractive and happy and implied that overweight women did not take care of themselves or their appearance, and objected that the ad was offensive and irresponsible.
In response, Diet Chef argued that it did not believe the ad was exploitative of women and stated that it was not designed to shame women and did not imply that a certain body type was inferior. As such, it did not believe that the ad was offensive, as it was simply showing the “before and after” effects, which was a common strategy in the weight loss sector.
However, the ASA dismissed this notion. Its ruling stated: “The character’s unhappy demeanour appeared disproportionate to concerns about her weight, especially as she did not appear to be particularly overweight, despite being dressed in baggy clothing.
“We considered that, overall, the ad focused disproportionately on the former Cheryl’s negative feelings about her appearance, and implied that weight loss was the only solution to her problems. It therefore implied that those with insecurities about their bodies, and particularly their weight, could only achieve happiness and self-confidence through weight loss.”
Banning the ad on the grounds that it presented “a socially irresponsible approach to body image”, the regulator warned Diet Chef about its future advertising.
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