Why This Offensive Weight Loss Ad Has Been Banned

Illustration by Sydney Hass
A TV advert for a meal delivery service has been banned for implying that weight loss is the only way to achieve happiness and self-confidence. (Yawn!) The ad for Diet Chef, which claims to be "the largest diet delivery company" in the UK, showed a woman called Cheryl before and after using the service. The "before" version wore a baggy shirt and had messy hair, while the current Cheryl looked more polished and appeared to be happier. More than 26 people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the independent industry regulator, claiming the ad exploited women's insecurities about their bodies and hinted that happiness only comes through being slim, the BBC reported.
The ASA heeded their concerns, calling it "irresponsible" for implying that "weight loss was the only solution to [Cheryl's] problems". In the ad, the current Cheryl is shown talking to her former self. "I know how you feel; you can look that good again, you know," she said, and: "I bought a bikini last week, for the first time since this picture." Her former self then says: "You look amazing. I never dreamed I could be that slim again."
The ASA said Cheryl's "unhappy demeanour" seemed "disproportionate to concerns about her weight, especially as she did not appear to be particularly overweight". It concluded by saying, "the ad presented a socially irresponsible approach to body image and breached the [UK Code of Broadcast Advertising]". The ad must therefore not be shown on TV again in its current form, the ASA added, and Diet Chef must advertise its services in "a socially responsible way". However, Diet Chef defended its campaign. The company said Cheryl's changed appearance showed her sense of achievement after "taking control" of her appearance. (Because being slightly heavier means you've lost all control of your life, riiiight.) Diet Chef also said its ad fitted the typical "before and after" trope often used to advertise weight loss products. Maybe, Diet Chef, but that doesn't make your approach any less patronising. We hope your next campaign is less reductive.

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