London Bans Advertisements That Portray ‘Unrealistic Body Images’

London is set to ban all advertisements that portray unhealthy or unrealistic body images, from its transport systems, starting July. This ban includes all advertising spaces controlled by the Transport for London, or TfL, viz. spaces on overground trains, bus shelters, the Tube, trams, and other places on the street.

The city’s newly elected mayor, Sadiq Khan, made history last month by becoming the first Muslim person to be elected onto a major political seat in a western nation. Now he plans on gradually fulfilling all the promises he made during his election campaign. As a part of this process, he plans on banning all advertisements that are, in his own words, “likely to create body confidence issues, particularly among young people.”

“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.”

Sadiq Khan bans ads
The advertising watchdog had received a total of 378 complaints in 2015 regarding weight-loss advertisements that manipulated users into striving for the perfect “beach bod.” The Protein World “beach body ready” ads, in particular, were targeted in 2015 by activists who defaced its promotional posters in Tube stations and started a petition that called for a ban on these advertisements. As a result, Sadiq Khan had made it an agenda in his election campaign to ban these advertisements if he were elected Mayor. And now, he seems to be making good on his promise.

This can be considered a positive move, specially given a recent study that showed how kids as young as five are now concerned about their body images. According to the research by a group called Common Sense Media, kids are starting to develop concerns about how their bodies look at a younger age. While most advertisements claim to target a learned and informed adult population, in reality they reach as much of a younger audience as they do the target audience. And the younger they are, the more impressionable they also are. This has led to many kids, some as young as six to eight, into adhering to unhealthy lifestyles in hopes of achieving unrealistic body images. The vice president of Common Sense Media and author of the report, Seeta Pai, spoke on the matter.

“I think there’s a lot of talk about teens and body image, and many parents become aware of that when kids hit puberty, but kids as young as five are already expressing a desire for a body that is thinner than their current self or future self.”

The TfL claims that its advertising body is the most valuable in the world and will be worth an estimated $2.1 billion within the next eight and a half years. Sadiq Khan has now asked it to set up its own advertising steering group. The steering group will ensure that future adverts will adhere to standards and regulations defined by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).

[Image via Shutterstock]