Is Boots’ advert just Protein World in a different swimsuit?

Is Boots’ advert just Protein World in a different swimsuit?

Fuse Senior Account Director, Merika Vine, disagrees that Boots’ latest ad should be lauded as a step forwards for body confidence

I jumped for joy when Campaign’s newsletter landed in my inbox last Friday with a lead article citing ‘Boots sings for body confidence in summer campaign’. After grabbing my headphones, that joy quickly diminished when I watched the advert.

Rather than ‘singing for body confidence’ it does quite the opposite, as it appears to pit women against each other, providing yet another ‘ideal’ or ‘real’ body that women must abide by. I relish and champion seeing a wider range of women’s bodies being celebrated in advertising but this advert does not do that. And it’s a scary thought that the brand, and a fair few commentators, think it does.

As they arrive at the beach, the protagonists in Boots’ TV spot openly sneer at other women that have bodies different to their own. Is this how we’re celebrating body confidence in 2019? For too long, women have been told by the media what they should look like. This needs to stop. Thin certainly shouldn’t reign supreme as the representation of beautiful and successful, but brands simply can’t now start shaming skinny body types in favour of others. Most importantly, the media and brands should not be determining what the ‘real’ female body is.

The insight that inspired this campaign is horrifying and absolutely needs to be addressed within advertising: 76% of women surveyed have avoided summer activities because they felt self-conscious about their appearance. For trying to tackle this and impact women in a positive way, I applaud Boots. However, the end result could be as damaging to some women as the infamous Protein World advert that it seems to be sending up.

Said Protein World ad was blasted, quite rightly, for presenting a certain female body type as the most desirable. It’s yet another example where a brand has homed in on a certain body type and got it wrong. Women are all different shapes and sizes, and no single shape should be deemed ‘the right one’.

Where have brands got it right?

15 years on from Dove’s 2004 Campaign for Real Beauty, it feels like we’ve moved further away from the mark and I’m not sure how we’ve got here. Like Carrie Bradshaw, “it got me to thinking…”, since Dove’s campaign, who has got it right when it comes to representing women in advertising? Two brands sprung to mind:

Sport England – all three ads from the This Girl Can campaign series are clear celebrations of women. Black, Asian, white, smaller, bigger, those with disabilities and those without – these ads do sing out that there is a place for every woman to be active, regardless of what you look like or where you’re from. And crucially, the women appear to all be in it together.

Mothercare’s recent campaign with Transport For London, Body Proud Mums, features women baring their post-partum bodies after becoming mothers. Shot by photographer Sophie Mayanne, it was created based on insights uncovered by Mothercare: over 50% of new mothers feel unable to experience a sense of pride in their bodies after giving birth and four out of five have compared their post-birth bodies to unrealistic images. Again, this campaign features a diverse and inclusive range of women, rather than pitting women’s differences against each other.

I don’t know how the Boots campaign, which presents certain shapes and sizes as laughable, has helped to achieve the goal of championing everyone’s right to feel good. It feels a little like ‘Are you beach body ready?’ all over again…just in a different swimsuit.

Ultimately, it is admirable and entirely necessary that brands and agencies are trying to change the game and celebrate women of all different shapes, sizes, races and ages in advertising. I’m just not convinced that the Boots ad is doing that. On my commute in today, I pondered what brands and agencies could do in order to create more work that truly celebrates women. Three thoughts resonated:

  1. Focus on inclusivity and diversity rather than ‘real’ vs ‘non-real’ women. In fact, get rid of the term ‘real women’ in its entirety. If you’re representing ‘women’, that is enough.
  2. Frequently refer back to your original insight. Otherwise you might end up offending a large portion of the people you’re trying to help.
  3. Get women to lead the job. The Boots campaign was created by two men and directed by another. Go figure.