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Advertising watchdog finds Anytime Fitness campaign breaches standards

Advertising watchdog finds Anytime Fitness campaign breaches standards
February 20, 2017

The Advertising Standards Board has upheld five complaints over Anytime Fitness’ ‘F*?# Unfit/F*ck Unfit’ campaign, responding to concerns that the advertising was “offensive,” inappropriate for children and “unnecessary.”

As a result, the campaign’s mail, poster, social, outdoor and SMS formats have been banned.

Launched in January, the campaign set out to shock people into improving their health.

At the time, Anytime Fitness Australia, Chief Executive Arthur McColl told advertising website Mumbrella he was unapologetic over the confronting campaign.

McColl explained “we are being controversial, we are being disruptive.

“We are not trying to be offensive, but the reality is Australia is probably now first or second on the obesity chart on the planet. I’m not saying we (Anytime Fitness) are doing it solely, but we do need to shock people into doing something.”

Notwithstanding McColl’s comment, Anytime Fitness did tone down the outdoor posters for the campaign prior to its launch, changing them from ‘F*ck Unfit’ to ‘F*?# Unfit’.

Multiple complaints were submitted to the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) regarding each of the campaign’s formats, which concluded on 11th February.

The ASB found that in the case of the flyer in the mail, the advertisement could easily be found by young children who could read and understand the words ‘F*ck Unfit.’

It stated “the majority of the Board considered that community standards research had shown that the word ‘fuck’ is still considered to be obscene by most members of the community, and that this was not appropriate to be used in advertising in a public medium.

The Board also stated that the posters used language that was “too strong for a broad audience.”

The ASB said while the audience was “narrower” in the case of the social campaign than that of the flyers and posters, children using social media and adults would find the phrase “obscene” and “not appropriate in the context of advertising for gymnasium membership”.

The watchdog also stated that it felt that the SMS and outdoor components of the campaign were also offensive and not appropriate.

Anytime Fitness responded to each claim suggesting the use of language, combined with the fitness brand’s motivational tone could not be deemed “strong, obscene or inappropriate.”

In the case regarding the mail advertisement, Anytime Fitness pointed out the flyers were not intended for children but argued if young children were to find it, they would not “associate the word with an offensive or swear word”.

The company said the campaign was “meant to allude to a strong statement” that they were making in an attempt to combat health problems.

Anytime Fitness said of the social advertising “whilst the campaign alludes to the word it does not appear in any of the advertisements in full as the ‘u’ has been replaced with a ‘*’.

“The context of the advertisements is the promotion of a physical fitness centre to adult Australians and the word is used in a motivational way to inspire positive change for the betterment of the viewer’s, and ultimately the nation’s, health.”

Anytime Fitness has acknowledged all five decisions on the matter and had discontinued the marketing materials and advertisements associated with the campaign.

It also advised that it would notify its franchise network of the decisions.

Section 2.5 of the advertising code states “strong or obscene language” should be avoided. 

11th January 2017 - ANYTIME FITNESS RUNS LARGEST EVER MEMBER ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM AND NEW YEAR ACQUISITION CAMPAIGN 

8th November 2016 - CONTROVERSIAL NORTHERN TERRITORY TOURISM SLOGAN GENERATES MASSIVE INTEREST

18th July 2016 - ANYTIME FITNESS RETAINS TOP PLACE ON ANNUAL TOP GLOBAL FRANCHISE LIST

20th January 2016 - ANYTIME FITNESS AUSTRALIA FILL NEW HEAD OF FITNESS ROLE

5th November 2015 - ANYTIME FITNESS ANNOUNCES 3,000TH GLOBAL CLUB OPENING

21st May 2015 - NEW PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE THE FITNESS INDUSTRY 

4th July 2014 - ACCC WARNS GYMS ABOUT ‘NO CONTRACTS’ MEMBERSHIP ADVERTISING 

25th March 2014 - FITNESS AUSTRALIA RELEASES NATIONAL MEMBERSHIP CONTRACT TEMPLATE, APPOINTS NEW BOARD MEMBER ‚Äč

22nd March 2014 - PAYSMART BACKS FITNESS AUSTRALIA MOVE FOR CORRECT WORDING IN FITNESS CLUB MEMBERSHIP CONTRACTS

10th January 2014 - ACCC WARNS FITNESS BUSINESSES ABOUT THE TERM 'NO CONTRACTS'

29th May 2013 - NSW FAIR TRADING COMMISSIONER REMINDS CONSUMERS OF GYM MEMBERSHIP RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES 


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However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

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