London’s transport body TfL is looking at ways it can encourage brands to feature more diverse groups of people in the ads they place on the trains, tubes, buses, and stations across its network.
The idea was discussed in February at the first meeting of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s advertising steering group, which was set up last year to monitor TfL’s approach to advertising. The group consists of representatives from academia, the advertising industry, and London City Hall.
The minutes of the meeting were published earlier this month.
A TfL spokesperson told Business Insider: “Members agreed that we should examine how we could use our unique position to encourage more diversity in advertising, reflecting the huge range of people who travel on our transport network every day. This will be discussed further at the next meeting in July.”
Tom Knox, the chairman of UK advertising trade body the IPA who was one of the attendees at the meeting, told Business Insider he suggested TfL could take a similar approach to a competition Channel 4 ran last year.
The UK broadcaster ran a contest asking brands and agencies to create a campaign that prominently featured disability and disabled talent, dishing out £1 million ($US1.2 million) of commercial airtime to the winner. Chocolate brand Maltesers won the competition and its ads were first aired during the opening ceremony of 2016 Paralympic Games.
Sadiq Khan made banning advertisements that feature unhealthy body images on the TfL network one of his Mayoral election pledges. The ban became effective in July last year, with a new clause inserted into TfL’s advertising policy stating that ads can be rejected if they “could reasonably be seen as likely to cause pressure to conform to an unrealistic body shape, or as likely to create body confidence issues particularly among young people”.
The change in policy followed the furor created by an ad for diet shakes and supplement company Protein World, which featured a model in a bikini and the words “Are you beach body ready?”
Critics accused the ad of being “sexist” and “fat-shaming” for promoting an unrealistic image of women’s bodies. Many of the posters, which largely appeared on London Underground trains and in stations, were defaced. More than 71,000 people signed a Change.org petition calling on Protein World to remove the adverts, and a small protest against the campaign was held in London’s Hyde Park.
TfL revealed in the meeting minutes that it has received 86 complaints from customers since the new advertising policy was introduced. However, the majority of complaints during the period were on political or offence grounds. The most complained-about ad was a poster for the Islamic Relief charity, which generated 56 complaints from customers.
The Islamic Relief ad:
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