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Sadiq Khan bans ‘body-shaming’ ads

It was announced last month that Sadiq Khan, the new Mayor of London, had banned all ‘body-shaming’ ads on the Transport for London (TfL) network from July 2016 onwards. This includes adverts that promote ‘unrealistic expectations’ about body image and health.

He had previously pledged to tackle advertising on the tube network during his campaign, particularly after seeing Protein World’s ‘Beach Body Ready’ campaign last year that attracted more than 70,000 signatures for its removal. The ASA received 378 complaints, but concluded that the headline and image were unlikely to cause serious offence and the advert was not irresponsible. Yet one man, the Mayor of London, has now called action on all of the ads on the TfL stating that “Nobody should feel pressurised, while they travel on the tube or bus, into unrealistic expectations surrounding their bodies and I want to send a clear message to the advertising industry about this”.

Graeme Craig, TfL’s commercial development director also stated “Advertising on our network is unlike TV, online and print media. Our customers cannot simply switch off or turn a page if an advertisement offends or upsets them and we have a duty to ensure the copy we carry reflects that unique environment.”

TfL runs c. 12,000 different ads a year, and as one of the most valuable estates in the world, it is expected to generate more than £1.5 billion in revenue over the next eight and a half years. The ban is anticipated to have little impact on its income.

All Response Media Viewpoint

Out-of-Home (OOH) is generally one of the lesser regulated media channels, providing an opportunity for brands in sectors such as gambling and alcohol that are heavily restricted on other media, particularly TV. Each medium is regulated differently: TV has daypart, programming and station restrictions that can make it difficult for clients in certain sectors, such as the aforementioned, and others such as cosmetic surgery practices, to use media in the most effective way. For example, since 20th May 2016, e-cigarettes can no longer be advertised on TV, VOD, radio, certain print publications and even online, leaving OOH as the next best prospect for mass exposure.

We always approach any brief with a holistic view of media options, taking into consideration the opportunities and restrictions of all media options to propose the most effective campaign mix. With some of the most efficient impacts and highest footfall area in the country for OOH, TfL’s decision is likely to lead to both opportunities and threats. With London Underground and Overground rail stations possibly no longer being an option for some advertisers, decreased demand with growing supply would lead to price deflation and more late availability deals. Restricted advertisers may need to look to cities outside of London for opportunities, increasing demand there and raising prices outside of the capital.

Realistically at this stage, the number of advertisers effected are likely to be small, however as Sadiq Khan sets up the Advertising Steering Group to monitor the TfL’s approach to advertising and to keep its policy under regular review, we may see further restrictions in the future.