Did the Bugaboo guys see the hoo-ha over those Protein World 'Are you beach body ready?' ads and think "Hell yeah, you know what we need to leverage here in our family-centric, problem-solving brand? GUILT!"
The funny thing is, the product itself makes sense. I’m a triathlete of sorts, and know loads of mothers who are into staying fit and healthy. Sometimes, when you’re as sleep-deprived as you are, it feels like you can turn to drink to cope, or put on your trainers and blast out the fatigue. Occasionally, both can help.
It is hard to fit some training in at the best of times with a job, a couple of kids and a few box sets to get through, so a way to give the little one some fresh air when you’re out running? Sure. Not a lot of people will argue with that. It’s not new – running buggies have been around for yonks – but it's perfectly credible for Bugaboo to jump onto the fitness wagon with a problem-solving product. All $800 of it.
The heart of the problem
However, it really is the addition of the ludicrously unrealistic model mother that takes the (very much not literal) biscuit. Now, I’ve seen a fair few hilarious cycling outfits haring around central London, and am not adverse myself to a rainbow running cap. But no matter what shape your body is in, I have yet to see a woman jogging in a monokini like the weird love interest edited out of mankini-loving Borat: The Movie.
No matter what shape your body is in, I have yet to see a woman jogging in a monokini
Then, of course, there’s the real issue: this woman is exceptionally thin. Does Bugaboo have a responsibility to ensure the images it puts out representing women are healthy and ‘normal’? I’m not convinced it has a social responsibility to do so – after all, it is marketing to grown adults, unlike Top Shop’s dubious pre-teen mannequins, which took a kicking this week – but you’d have thought it has a responsibility to itself.
Almost nobody – not even Paula Radcliffe – looks like that, despite their fitness levels, and that truth is amplified tenfold when you link it to a period in women’s lives when statistically they are even less happy with their bodies than at any other time (which already starts from a low base). By its very presence, it appears the model is calling the audience out on their own slovenly ways and shouting "Betcha wish your girlfriend/body was hot like me…" (delete as appropriate for male or female audiences). This just shows a straight out lack of respect for your audience, and you do that at your peril.
Don't just change the model. Change the campaign
Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t about putting a bigger-sized model into this ad. Then it would still be a boring ad, with someone else in it. It’s really quite simple to get around the question of how skinny/happy/attractive/befuddled your model should look: write a better ad. One that, you know, employs a little more creativity around tapping into the psyche of new mums who might feel a little trapped from getting back into their fitness routines with a baby in tow. In other words, one that actually linked the product to its benefit in a meaningful way. That would be a level of understanding of its audience that one would expect from a company like Bugaboo.
So don’t just change the model. Change the campaign. Make the product into something that helps get fit women back into fitness, not back into size zero jeans, and they’ll thank you for it. They won’t thank you for filling the well of guilt, which was born with their child, with the weight of body judgment. Women can do that very well ourselves, thanks.