Medispa Removes Body-Shaming Ads After Backlash

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

When a women’s empowerment advocate spotted local medispa advertisements that used body-shaming language recently, she decided to speak up. Alice Bracegirdle, who owns a dance-inspired fitness company, Bellyfit International, in British Columbia, decided to take to Facebook to express her disgust over the language of the ad, which promoted a non-invasive liposuction-like procedure by Cosmedica.

The ad’s cheeky message — “Goodbye fat. Hello Coolsculpting. Love ya Cosmedica” — was surrounded by a slew of demeaning words and phrases, including “muffin top,” “flanks,” “spare tire,” “mom bod,” “love handle,” “belly fat,” and “pooch.” When Bracegirdle first spotted the ad splashed across the back of a bus, she was shocked, according to her Oct. 27 Facebook post.

The offensive Medispa ad drew ire on Facebook. (Photo: Courtesy of Facebook/alicebracegirdle)
The offensive Medispa ad drew ire on Facebook. (Photo: Courtesy of Facebook/alicebracegirdle)

“The words came into focus, ‘Mom bod, muffin top, flank, spare tire,’ and I thought, ‘That is not OK,'” she told the Times Colonist. “In fact, I couldn’t believe it. It felt really archaic to see this kind of shame-based advertising.” Bracegirdle told the publication she “thought deeply” before taking a picture of the ad and posting it to Facebook. But she was so disturbed by its message, she had to express her feelings.

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Along with a photo of the ad, Bracegirdle’s caption read, in part, “I can only imagine what the Creative Brief with the Marketing Department of Cosmedica would have looked like for this campaign. ‘OK guys! How many ‘derogatory, disempowering, humiliating, self deprecating’ names can we come up with to describe a woman’s midsection?'”

The response to Bracegirdle’s post was overwhelming, even taking her by surprise, she told the told the Times Colonist. At the time of this article’s publication, the post has received 87 shares and 220 reactions. Its 116 comments include, “What a powerful post. Thanks for sharing and shaming this sad marketing attempt,” and “COMPLETE SELF LOVE and ACCEPTANCE IS THE REVOLUTION !!”

Some irate Facebook users expressed their outrage on Cosmedica’s own Facebook page — and Cosmedica listened. On Friday, the company posted an apology to Facebook. It read:

“Regarding our recent CoolSculpting marketing campaign: We are sorry — it was in no way our intention to offend or upset anyone. Our marketing team had the best intentions to be playful with words, however, if the words chosen are suggesting the wrong message, we will honor such concerns and revisit this campaign immediately. We hear you. We at Cosmedica are a team of mothers, daughters and sisters. We work together every day to love, empower and celebrate all women and every patient with the work that we do.”

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The apology was not enough for most people, though, who demanded the ads be removed, according to the Times Colonist. Cosmedica listened to that, too. The company announced on its Facebook page Monday that “all bus ads will be down before week’s end, as quickly as bus schedules can be managed,” and that all bus shelter ads were already pulled. The company again issued a sincere apology and assured fans and the public that its team was making rectification of the situation a high priority. Fans thanked the company for listening.

Perhaps the most thankful of all is Bracegirdle. She told the Times Colonist, “As the mother of a teenager, I can tell you they notice everything. For us to have any impact with what they’re already seeing on social media — Snapchat, Instagram — we need to talk about this and we’ve got a lot of work to do.” As the owner of a fitness company, Bracegirdle believes in empowering women to stay in their best shape possible — but never to shame them into looking any of sort of way that’ s considered “acceptable.”

In a second post, published after Cosmedica’s decision to remove the ads, Bracegirdle wrote on Facebook, in part, “I’ve been a prominent, pioneering voice for the positive body image movement in Victoria and around the world for almost 10 years now … We’ve come a long way (“baby, and that’s a fact”), and this ad was like a slap in the face reminding me that we still have a long way to go. To be super clear, my issue is NOT with the procedures and products that these medispas are selling! Although I will always recommend diet and exercise first, I would never judge a woman’s choice to alter her body in any way. It’s her body and she can do as she wishes, bottom line. But shame-based advertising is simply not gonna fly these days.”

Bracegirdle, though not a marketing professional, told the Times Colonist that she feels a better way for companies like Medispa to advertise to potential clients would be to “engage with their community, to ask: ‘If this is not OK what is a way we can reach women by empowering them to make choices because they honour and respect their bodies?'”

And as she wrote on Facebook, “by the many comments on [my] post, it’s clear that I’m not the only one who feels this.”

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