New London Mayor Sadiq Khan has banned body-shaming ads from the city's transport network of subways, trains and buses.
Mr. Khan, who was elected in May, promised in his manifesto that he would stop Transport for London from running ads that promote unrealistic expectations around body image and health.
The ban will take effect next month and is only likely to affect a handful of the estimated 12,000 ads that run across the network each year. The mayor claimed there would be no impact on Transport for London's commercial income, which reached $260 million in 2015, up from $232 million the previous year.
Mr. Khan said in a statement, "As the father of two teenage girls, I am extremely concerned about this kind of advertising which can demean people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies. It is high time it came to an end."
Last summer, the Advertising Standards Authority received 378 complaints about Protein World's "Beach Body Ready" ad, showing a very slim woman in a yellow bikini. The ad, which ran in a giant 10 foot by 20 foot format, also inspired a protest in Hyde Park, a 70,000-signature online petition, and a graffiti campaign.
The ASA regulatory body bucked public opinion and ruled that the ad was neither irresponsible nor offensive, stating that "beach body" was a well-known term. However, the watchdog did take exception to the ad's health and weight-loss claims, and banned the ad in June 2015.
Dave Buonaguidi, the chief creative officer at Crispin Porter & Bogusky London, said, "Thanks to social media, everyone – thin, fat, black, white, rich, poor, informed, ill-informed, smart, stupid – has the opportunity to voice their opinion. Of course I agree in banning things that are offensive but where do you draw the line? When you listen and react to niche responses you also restrict niche opinion, and niche opinion is what keeps it interesting. It drives innovation and progress."
Rich Hill, planning director at creative agency Atomic London, said, "This is a TFL [Transport for London] issue, not an advertising issue. The ASA exists to make sure standards are maintained. Sadiq Khan is responsible for TFL and for making sure it works in the best way for Londoners. Any media owner decides what suits its own values."
TFL has set up a committee with its agencies and out-of-home media companies Exterion Media and JCDecaux to monitor and review compliance with the new rules. Information on how the steering group will apply the new policy will be released soon, according to a PR representative for Exterion Media.
Mr. Hill added, "Advertising on TFL is unique. You've got [passengers] literally with nothing else to do. They can't get online, so there's high attention and decent dwell time – it's a highly engaging media."