The recent #beachbodyready storm has taught me a valuable lesson about advertising. The lesson is this: there is a LOT of room for improvement. Not just in how we conceive our ideas, but in how we engage with the public, those who consume the fruits of our work.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the buzz and the creative thrill that comes from a well thought out campaign, or a good piece of brand messaging. But there are so many reasons we need to start thinking before we publish mindless ads. And there is so much scope for advertising that empowers, rather than blindly follows the status quo.

Exhibit A: the Beach Body Ready ad for Protein World.

beach-body-ready-campaign

The Protein World ad, depicting an impossibly perfect model in a bikini, used similar imagery to a lot of other adverts out there. It wasn’t really that different to a lot of the stuff that women are bombarded with on a daily basis. Except that this time billboards were defaced, and they became a site of protest against impossible body deals.

Even though I work in marketing (and should therefore be defending it to the death, according to some), I was kind of excited by this uprising, which has for so long been the pursuit of feminists, rather than ordinary women. I was excited, because here was a visual, blunt retort to the crude imagery used by so many companies. Because so many of us simply walk past bad advertising without a thought to what it might be doing to young minds. And here, at last, was evidence that advertising needed to shift from something that creates impossible myths, to something that might reflect the genuine feelings of society. A shift like that could turn into something truly beautiful.

there is so much scope for advertising that empowers, rather than blindly follows the status quo.

But others were not so excited. A prominent advertising “creative” on Twitter vehemently defended the interests of his corporate tribe, whilst completely condemning the public outcry as a symptom of a society that was far too “politically correct”. It was just an ad, he said. What was all the fuss about? Like others in his industry, he could only see one side of the story: the side of the advertiser. Even worse, when one of his colleagues suggested some realistic body shapes would improve the campaign’s reception, he retorted:

“Yes but that would dilute the ad. PC [political correctness] is killing advertising”

Wow. The idea that making something more palatable to ordinary women would be “diluting the ad” seemed to be so narrow minded that it almost made me lose faith in the entire industry, an industry I worked hard to be a part of.

Advertisers, creatives, copywriters and brands should be one step ahead, anticipating who will enjoy their advertising and how it will be received in the public sphere. If it is not received well, they should be examining why, instead of blindly defending their rights to produce even more ill-conceived advertising.

This guy’s attitude was “it’s just an ad. What’s the big deal?” But I wonder if his response would be the same if it had been his client’s ad that had been pulled from the underground due to a backlash.

My humble opinion? So-called “creatives” should be open-minded enough to consider the wider impact of their work on society, rather than demonstrating a crippling inability to see beyond their narrow corporate boxes. I hope you agree.

So, my promise to you, should I ever have the pleasure of working on your campaign, is this: I will ALWAYS consider the societal impact of your message. I will always speak up if there’s potential for a backlash that could impact your brand. And I will do my damned best to ensure that your advertising empowers, rather than oppresses, your target audience.

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