London mayor bans ‘unrealistic’ body ads on transport

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Jun 14, 2016 21:07 IST
File photo of a Protein World advertisement displayed in an underground station in London. Mayor Sadiq Khan has banned advertising that promotes unhealthy body images on the city's subway network. Starting July, Transport for London will not allow ads that cause pressure to conform to "unrealistic or unhealthy body shape". (AP)

London Underground, buses and other transport across the British capital will no longer have advertisements which portray “unrealistic” and “unhealthy” images, particularly of women, that put pressure on the young to conform to such images.

This was one of London mayor Sadiq Khan’s election promises, given the growing concern that youngsters took extreme measures or felt under-confident because of pervasive advertisements featuring slim, “sexy” images, especially of women.

The new advertising policy will apply to all new advertisements submitted to Transport for London, the body that oversees transport across the city, the mayor’s office said.

It will not allow advertisements which could reasonably be seen as likely to cause pressure to conform to an unrealistic or unhealthy body shape, or as likely to create body confidence issues, particularly among young people.

Khan said: “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.

“Nobody should feel pressurised, while they travel on the Tube or bus, into unrealistic expectations surrounding their bodies and I want to send a clear message to the advertising industry about this.”

Advertising on London transport is considered the most valuable in the world. The mayor’s office said during the next eight-and-a-half years, it will generate more than £1.5 billion in revenue to reinvest in the transport network.

The advertising estate includes space on the Tube, Overground, DLR, Victoria Coach Station, trams, bus shelters, buses and on-street advertising. Around 12,000 advertisements appear each year.  

Graeme Craig of Transport for London said: “Advertising on our network is unlike TV, online and print media. Our customers cannot simply switch off or turn a page if an advertisement offends or upsets them and we have a duty to ensure the copy we carry reflects that unique environment. We want to encourage great advertising that engages people and enhances the transport network.”

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