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What can we learn from Protein World's social media strategy?


This post originally appeared on socialmedialondon.co.uk.

UPDATE (30th April): In the last 24 hours, there have been a number of reports about the Advertising Standards Authority investigating the advert after receiving 360 complaints:

They have ruled it can’t appear again in its current form:

…and investigating to “establish whether the advert breaks harm and offense rules or is socially irresponsible” (according to the Independent):

They explained to the Independent:

We will now carefully and objectively explore the complaints that have prompted concerns around body confidence and promptly publish our findings.

Some people are happy that the ASA are taking the steps:

Happy with @ASA_UK @ProteinWorld ruling. Eating healthily and exercising well = best way to get beach-ready. No time for shakes and pills!

— Julia Savage (@j_m_savage) April 29, 2015

…whereas others aren’t so pleased:

Some people are still questioning why the ad has received the response it has:

have people lost the plot? how is @ProteinWorld in any way qualifying to be under attack by observers and the ASA?

— kalon (@KalonJayHodges) April 29, 2015

The next step?

@TeleWonderWomen @ProteinWorld Great stuff. Time to stop the patronising tweets now, Protein World

— Marie Anderson (@MarieAndersonUK) April 29, 2015

Let’s see how this turns out.

UPDATE (27th April): Over the weekend, more and more traction has gone behind the campaigns against Protein World, their ads and their social media.

The ad was covered in various other publications, such as Buzzfeed (and a number of other high level publications):

The mean-spirited replies made a return, including this one to Hannah – who we mentioned in the article:

They also told a woman who was voicing her opinion to “grow up”:

Another said about how feminists shouldn’t be taken seriously:

( Source )

Richard Staveley, who we tweeted earlier, and said their attitude online would change, has gone back on his words in an interview with Sky News:

Katie Hopkins had her say:

She also challenged the people complaining:

Arjun Seth, CEO of Protein World has called the critics of his adverts “terrorists” in an interview with Channel 4 News:

Boss of firm behind controversial 'Are you beach body ready?' ad says vandals are "terrorists" http://t.co/sXuLzDnDiK pic.twitter.com/9iZ7ovPiZr

— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) April 27, 2015

Something which, rightly so, has angered people:


UPDATE (24th April): There’s a lot we can put here, but since our last tweet, a lot of anti-Protein World campaigns have popped up, including this fantastic effort from Fiona:

She’s doing a big version in London, so get in touch with her if you want to be involved:

One by @JulietteBarton got this reply from the Protein World account:

Jesus @ProteinWorld, do you want that hole to be any deeper? (via @willpscottpic.twitter.com/hvzYQ9s7gl

— Laurence Hebberd (@LaurenceHebberd) April 24, 2015

This has not gone down well with Twitter:

and rightly so:

Is it the end of the brand?

It has even turned some people who originally used the products to throw them away:

Throwing my @ProteinWorld powder in the bin. I train a lot, but am ashamed to have given them any money at all. #everyoneisbeachbodyready

— Rosie Keep (@rosiekeep) April 24, 2015

The CEO also tweeted this:

@daniellenewnham @JulietteBurton @ProteinWorld it sounds like Juliette had a lot of issues well before she saw the PW ad

— Arjun Seth (@arjun_seth) April 24, 2015

The CEO, ladies and gentlemen.

This story is developing at a fast pace, we’ll update more as we get it.

UPDATE (20th April): Over the weekend, both Richard and Arjun deleted their tweets about the article and the changes they were making on social (see below). Thank goodness for screen-grabs!

Protein World also blocked the author on Twitter:

Jack (who originally made the article known to the PW team) also got blocked again by the CEO and Protein World:

Both @ProteinWorld and their CEO @arjun_seth have blocked me. Bravo! pic.twitter.com/MvWrk4Majx

— Jack Ashman (@Jack_Ashman) April 18, 2015

…as did other people who had been tweeting about the situation:

@Jack_Ashman @ProteinWorld @arjun_seth me too. Wasn't even aware I'd tweeted him – I'm just that notorious!

— Laura (@gingerLLM) April 18, 2015

including Livy that we mentioned:

…and Lucy:

It seems that Protein World need to read point 2 again.

UPDATE (17th April): Since yesterday’s publication, and massive thanks to Jack (@Jack_Ashman), we’ve had responses from both Head of Global Marketing and the CEO of Protein World.

Richard Staveley (@stavers002), Head of Global Marketing was very accepting of the points outlined below and explained that changes were being made:

( Source )


There certainly are changes, with more positivity in replies to negative comments:

…however, this is still a copy and paste response (a bit like the sales tweets that were first sent):

( Source )

Additionally, Jack received a reply from the CEO, Arjun Seth:

( Source )

I’ll leave that to you to think about. He had no comment about the social presence, but just about the sales of the product.

You can read the original article below:

Recently, “fitness and sports nutrition” brand Protein World started a new ad campaign. I saw the ad highlighted by James Whatley (@Whatleydude) when this tweet appeared on my feed:

I’ve also been told by friends and colleagues that they’ve seen the ad themselves. I’m yet to see it.

You may be wondering why this would be posted on a website about social media? Well it’s the ensuing social storm that has pushed me to writing this piece.

I know I’m not a woman, and probably not the target audience, but I wanted to talk about advertising standards in this sense and also how you should deal with negativity on social media. Plus, I could easily view this poster at any point as I regularly travel on the tube.

1) Don’t ignore negativity:

The ad first made its way onto Twitter a few days ago with a few tweets highlighting it on the Tube:

There were the tweets praising it:

…and those tweets criticising it:

No I am fucking well not and I don't think milk powder will help. Poisonous advert from @ProteinWorld pic.twitter.com/WRBIZOU8Su

— Alex Martin (@AlexFGMartin) April 15, 2015

Alex has a good point – and is obviously in the audience they are trying to reach.

'Protein World' posting massive adverts about being 'beach body ready' whilst promoting skipping meals. Wow.

— Rach Warrenger (@RachWarrenger) April 12, 2015

Rach points out that the adverts are indeed massive, and can’t be missed – whereas Jo outlines that the advert is irresponsible – a point that a number of people have highlighted:

Hannah outlines a wider problem with sexism and the value of women’s bodies:

…and Tony sums it up simply: want to wear a bikini? Do it.

As Charlie neatly puts, his tweet didn’t get a retweet (or any engagement), whereas Kate’s did. The first rule of any social media management: don’t ignore negativity.

They’re not only doing it on Twitter. Over on Facebook, user Pippa Hardingham created a note which has gone on to be shared hundreds of times:


In it, she explains that every time she posts the ad on Protein World’s Facebook page (without any confrontation), her comment gets deleted – simply for being negative. She doesn’t get a reply, a message or anything of sorts. In fact, it took two days to get a reply after many emails being ignored (maybe she was making a noise on social). Arjun Seth, CEO of Protein World apologised and told her he had replied to her email:

@pippaah aplogies,I have now replied to your email

— Arjun Seth (@arjun_seth) April 16, 2015

If you receive negative criticism – don’t delete it. Don’t ignore it and hope it will go away. Deal with it and use it to change the way you act in the future.

2) Don’t make the situation worse:

There is a lot of social buzz around the ad currently, and a lot of people are tweeting and engaging with Protein World and explaining their opinions – which is fair enough.

However, Protein World have an…..interesting?……way to react to these tweets and comments.

Example a comes from Cecilia Dominici. Here is her tweet:

In it, she explains sarcastically that she may not be able to be let into the beach. Of course, anyone can see this. It’s another rule of social media: a lot of the time, people aren’t be serious.

Anyway I digress, their reply was a generic sales tweet:

…which didn’t even make sense. This isn’t the only person they’re sending this (spammy) sales tweet to. Here’s one in reply to an angry Instagram post:

Same tweet here:

You get the idea. As Cecilia has outlined below, the tweet shows a sense of sexism – girls cannot be ready for the beach until they’ve lost weight:

However, it also shows that instead of ignoring the negativity, they’re just making it worse. It seems to be a team made up of one person who has to reply to hundreds of tweets in a day, so just goes for a copy-and-paste reply. However, with each tweet, it’s making the situation worse.

Abi nicely sums up what a lot of social media managers are thinking right now:

Even Dove stepped in to create an advert against the Protein World version (although it seems to have been removed from their Twitter account):

It’s not only the women who are getting spammy sales tweets. Blaise made a good point of translating their slogans into what a lot of people feel about the ad:

Protein World, again, replied with a sales link:

…and then a tweet which can easily be taken as sarcastic:

Jack has also pointed out that the sarcasm doesn’t stop on Twitter, but Facebook too:

This is what Protein World are saying to people on Facebook. Share your thoughts with them ~ @ProteinWorld pic.twitter.com/NUajwPXf6l

— Jack Ashman (@Jack_Ashman) April 16, 2015

After sharing his thoughts with Protein World and their replies, he was swiftly blocked:

Hi @arjun_seth & @Elenahannides, I've now been blocked by @ProteinWorld. Game on! pic.twitter.com/WhNu9dqxL3

— Jack Ashman (@Jack_Ashman) April 16, 2015

Don’t fight fire with fire. Don’t reply with tweets that can be mistranslated as sarcastic, as it will just anger the angry people even more. Don’t block people, as it shows that you’re childish. Reply with dignity, understand their concerns and don’t treat anyone with criticism as someone you need to shun, ignore or treat like an idiot.

3) Don’t oversell:

My last point of how Protein World are reacting to (some) of the tweets leads me onto my final rule of social media: don’t oversell your product. One of the main advertising idea that they have is with celebrities, who regularly post photos on Instagram and Twitter promoting the brand:

Sometimes Protein World follow up the tweets with discount codes or special offers, which the celebrities then retweet. However, a lot of people are bored of the ads:

…whereas, other people can see that the ads aren’t genuine:

…and aren’t silly enough to be caught out:

@kirk_official @ProteinWorld You should use #ad in tweets like this!

— Darren Langworthy (@dazza9090) September 24, 2014

…or not know the reasoning behind why they are advertising these products:

My point is: overselling is annoying, and obvious. Don’t oversell. People will figure you out and see right through the ads.

Also, if you are trying to get celebrity endorsements, don’t do it with multiple characters from the same show. What a stupid move.

(P.S. If you want creative ways of selling products, read my case study on Innocent Drinks.)


I’m not an advertiser. I don’t do advertising, I (try to) do social media. This whole storm has shown the true colours of a brand like Protein World, and how much social media can influence how people will see your brand. My good friend Ben sums it up in one sentence:

Some brands need to be socially aware of their fuck-ups and own up to them. Example: @proteinworld with their #BeachBodyReady nonsense.

— Ben Donkor (@FR314) April 16, 2015

In this age of social media, brands need to be more aware of the message they’re sending. Whether that be via advertisement, social media or any other type of marketing. Aside from the (possibly) dangerous ad they’ve put out, they need to take a hold of the negativity and work with it, or your brand will just end up damaged.

P.S. They might have created this campaign to be written about. If that’s the way they wanted to go, well done, you did your job.