How do you make ground up plant extracts controversial? Or even sexy? We imagine the advertising agency responsible for the recent ‘Beach Body Ready’ campaign from diet supplement peddlers Protein World are feeling very satisfied with the results so far, if their brief was to get everyone talking about the brand. But is all publicity good publicity? Or has this one been handled badly?
If you’ve been anywhere near public transport in London recently then you probably have seen those big, yellow posters by the Protein World brand with text demanding if you’re ‘Beach Body Ready’ next to a looming, ‘perfect’ woman in a bikini. The adverts themselves are a fine example of why we have ended up with a society in which we feel unacceptable unless we’re perfectly proportioned. However, it’s not the ads themselves but the response from the company behind them to online criticism that has been so mind-boggling.
As criticism of the adverts began to surface on social media, instead of trying to fight the firestorm with logic and – dare I say it – a ‘grown up attitude,’ Protein World, and its CEO Arjun Seth, started attacking. Principally, social media users were highlighting the way in which the adverts missed the point that really all you require to be beach body ready is a beach and a body (you don’t have to spend all your savings on protein powders and put on lots of make up to go to the beach), but Protein World got really personal. The responses really were a lesson in how not to do social media customer service. Some of the choicest examples includes “why make your insecurities our problem *winky face*” and “we are a nation of sympathisers for fatties #doesnthelpanyone” as well as the massively offensive “surely as feminists…you understand that no one takes you seriously.” The CEO also went on TV and called the company’s critics ‘terrorists,’ which is just a bit baffling. As far as we are aware, terrorists have yet to express their objection to guarana extract.
However, despite the Twitterstorm whirling around it, Protein World and its charm bucket CEO continued on the offensive – supported by renowned fence sitter and all round sea of empathy Katie Hopkins. When she jumped on their bandwagon that must really have been a moment for celebration – they had an ally! Albeit a woman who more than 250,000 people had signed a petition requesting she be sacked after describing migrants as ‘cockroaches’.
Whether it was the Hopkins effect or whether someone at Protein World finally realised that repeatedly attacking the public just wasn’t good PR, the nature of the tweets finally began to change. And so instead of the bitchy comments about fatties, the company began rolling out the standard response of “Positive vibes, No offence meant. Enjoy the beach this summer in the body that you love *smiley face*” Although, of course, the CEO still couldn’t help himself with tweets such as “everything has been fantastic, sales have tripled so something must be working.”
Whether those sales ‘figures’ are correct or not we’ll never know but, as Seth is the kind of man who likes to take multiple photos of himself with his top off, we can assume that there might be a bit of fake posing in there. From a reputation management point of view the business couldn’t have done anything more to generate negativity; it really was the whole package of bad PR. As a result, they’ve created a rather Hopkins-esque situation for themselves when it comes to future campaigns – play the panto villain forever and become increasingly ‘outrageous,’ offensive and angry, eventually alienating pretty much everyone, or just disappear. Given how much this company apparently loves the spotlight, we doubt it will be the latter.