Adverts promoting “unhealthy or unrealistic” body images will be banned at the end of next month following Khan’s election manifesto pledge.
The ban came into force after a particularly controversial advert sparked a protest in Hyde Park. More than 70,000 people signed a petition against Protein World’s not-so-popular line “Are you beach body ready?” The adverts included unrealistic images of so called “model-shape” bodies. The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) watchdog also received 378 complaints in 2015 regarding the advert. The ASA later ruled that the advert, depicting an unrealistic bikini-clad female model, was neither offensive nor irresponsible.
Protein World is not the only perpetrator/culprit on this front. It feels like celebrities on social media are constantly warping teenage minds by relentlessly editing, cropping, enhancing, highlighting and ultimately recreating their images so that they look like a “stick-thin-model”. This figure distorting creates a fantasy world and misconceived perception of what a “typical” body should look like, and can have a worrying impact on young people’s self-esteem.
Last year, a study by Micali and partners at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Kings College London and Harvard found that children as young as eight were dissatisfied with the size and shape of their body. About a fifth of the 14-year-old girls said they felt under pressure from the media to lose weight.
A young teenager should not be subjected to, or have to witness, a misrepresented image of a body whilst travelling to and from school every day. This could not only mislead young, easily influenced minds of a perceived body, but lower self-esteem. The youth go through so many challenges whilst growing up, let alone the pressure to succeed in school – adding a pointless stress is shameful.
I believe generally, the so called “image” of a thin, thigh gapped, toned body is a complete misconception of the average physical appearance. Children should grow up without having to worry about such trivial burdens.
Living with such burdens can cause anxiety and depression, this has increased by 70 per cent in the past 25 years in teenagers. Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request showed the budgets for mental health trusts fell by 2% from 2013/14 to 2014/15. I believe that more government funding would help the rise in mental health issues in the young.
This perception was echoed yesterday by Steve Mallen, the father of Edward Mallen, who was 18 when he committed suicide last year in February. Steven founded the MindEd Trust charity to raise awareness of the issue of underfunding in the NHS. Speaking to the press yesterday, Steven stated:
“In my mind, there are structural failures, both in this case and in the system. It is my belief that my son should still be alive. Illnesses like this are entirely treatable and preventable. Had Edward received the proper help, he should have made a full recovery. There was no continuity of care. How many times do you have to tell the world you are acutely suicidal before someone takes notice?”
I think Mayor Khan was in the right to ban the ads, and I commend his statements that;
“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.
“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, positively commented and supported the removal of the insensitive ads;
“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. We want to encourage great advertising that engages people and enhances the transport network”
By Daniella Piraino, Senior Account Executive