The Advertising Standards Board (ASB) has ruled that a “Free Water” radio ad for Thirsty Camel bottle shop promoted eating disorders, body shaming and perpetuated negative stereotypes of the modelling industry.

The ad features a female voiceover saying: “They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Not true. Because right now, at Thirsty Camel, we’re giving away a gourmet super model’s lunch. That is, a refreshingly free bottle of water.”

The complaints included:

  • I feel that this radio ad makes light of disordered eating and the modelling industry. It stated that purchasing this product will get you ‘a supermodel’s lunch’ which according to the ad was ‘a bottle of water’.
  • Disordered eating should not be prompted, mocked or taken lightly, it deeply affects many peoples life.
  • The water is advertised as a super model’s lunch which is derogatory and offensive to the modelling industry. It portrays models in a bad light and demeans their intelligence. A lot of super models work extremely hard to maintain a high standard of fitness and nutrition and can be positive role models to young women in leading a healthy life. The ad perpetuates negative views of the modelling industry which are no longer representative of the majority of super models. This ad is a form of ridicule and promotes body shaming.

In response to the complaints Thirsty Camel bottleshops said: The purpose of this advert was to communicate a promotion giving away 40,000 bottles of free Thirsty Water at Thirsty Camel bottleshops in Victoria.

“Two of Thirsty Camel’s core brand values are irreverence and fun, and these are reflected in our advertising. The advert in question uses satire to reference dated stereotypes about supermodels; however at no point in time do we use language that is discriminatory, exploitive, degrading or demeaning as suggested by the complaint.”

Despite the ASB ruling that the ad did not discriminate or vilify models and that most reasonable people would interpret the joke as a light-hearted comment. Despite this, the ASB ruled:

“Following considerable discussion however, the majority of the Board noted that there is a level of community concern around body image and eating disorders, especially with young women.

“The Board noted that supermodels are often seen as inspirational to young women and considered that by promoting water as a supermodel’s lunch, even in a humorous way, the advertisement is validating the myth that models survive on water and little food.

“The majority of the Board noted the factual manner in which the voiceover references a supermodel’s lunch twice in a short period of time and considered that the overall message implies that it is okay for models to replace food with water and therefore if you want to be a model then this is acceptable behaviour.

“Based on the above the Board considered that the advertisement did depict material contrary to Prevailing Community Standards on healthy eating and body image.”

The ad has been removed and Thirsty Camel said it would not use the ad again.