Public opinion on the Kardashian family is almost as polarising as the public opinion on the Trump family, so it was always going to be a risky move to hire one of the notoriously fame-hungry siblings to front a national advertising campaign. The team at Thinkhouse UK, however (the MD of which, Jason Yates, I was fortunate enough to grab an interview with earlier this week), were probably not prepared for the backlash that greeted their campaign for the Protein World weight-loss brand yesterday. The campaign, fronted by Khloe Kardashian, caused a social media shockwave, with many social commenters noting that the posters displayed on the London Underground morning could be read as objectification and body-shaming propaganda.
For the record, I was largely unaware of Khloe prior to this week as I've never seen the show, but it would appear she certainly fits the family bill when comes to courting controversy, even when she's not trying. In this regard, the brand and the Kardashian family are perfect bed-fellows, as Protein World notoriously landed itself in hot water back in 2015, when it received significant backlash for its “beach body ready” ads, which were initially banned due to their supposedly ludicrous and unrealistic weight-loss claims. The ads were, however, later declared “inoffensive” by the ASA. This time, however, the waters are even murkier, as there are no bold claims being made here, it's simply the case of a subjectively, conventionally attractive, physically fit individual posing in skimpy clothing and promoting a diet plan that she herself has apparently had some positive experiences with. Many argued that it could, however, run the risk of perhaps falling short of the standards imposed by London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who, in June last year, vowed to ban outright any ad promoting unhealthy or unrealistic body images. But the Mayor of London’s office has already spoken up, declaring that the ad was “closely reviewed” and was deemed to comply with the new Transport for London advertising policy.
The Khloe Kardashian London Underground ad (bottom) and the 'Beach Body' ad from 2015 (top)
Nevertheless, Green Assembly member Caroline Russell revealed yesterday that she has received complaints from people about the advert and that she herself feels that the ads should be removed. She said: “People taking the Tube should not have to be bombarded with adverts that imply their bodies aren't good enough. Young people receive this negative message from enough social media channels and it’s appalling that this is being reinforced on Tube platforms, against the Mayor’s own policy, when people are taking trips to school, to work, or going out to socialise. I am urging the Mayor to look again at these adverts that challenge young people to ‘keep up’ with reality stars known for idealised and unrealistic body shapes. He needs to enforce his own guidelines and live up to his manifesto promise to Londoners. Every body is a good body and TfL should be promoting inclusion and making their stations welcoming spaces. Allowing these adverts risks making people lose confidence in themselves.”
A public petition has been started with the hope of removing the 'offending' ads from the tube and I have reached out to representatives at Thinkhouse for comment, so keep your eyes peeled for updates. As with many things in life though, for the time being it all falls to personal opinion. So. Do you think the ads promote an unhealthy or unrealistic body image? Or is it little more than a harmless campaign built around a rather silly pun? I can personally see both sides of the argument (fence sitter alert), but am welcome to jump into the discussion if anyone has any valid points they wish to lay on me. So, I open it up to the floor (or at least the comment section). Have at it ladies and gentlemen!
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.