Politics 4 October 2012 The ADgenda: this week's most offensive advert Fat binder tablets. Print HTML With the waistband of Britain tightening as obesity statistics grow, it’s only understandable that adverts quietly confront us with solutions to shrink our shameful stomachs. It’s nicer than being told off by news articles! But, when the news lectures us about children wider than they are tall and our imminent deaths at the hands of the Big Mac, the underlying message is, above all, health (and maybe Britain not being picked last in the PE class of the world). XLS Medical’s advert for their fat binder tablets remarkably omits all possible health benefits for whatever the cartoon science says their product does. Of course, health isn’t their main selling point. Why would it be? It’s not as if the name of their brand features the word “medical”, a word pointing directly towards health in all possible uses. Marching under this universal “medical” flag, it must be difficult to segregate your market so harshly, but they manage it. This advert’s target is so fixed on women it’s like an insecurity-seeking missile. The central figure, our heroine, laments at gaining weight until she doesn’t feel like herself anymore. The images accompanying this claim are indeed shocking deviations from being oneself: she happily holds a baby and eats a sandwich at her desk. But the straw that breaks the camel’s back is when she struggles to zip up her tightly-squeezing clothes – and the penny drops. The only reason XLS Medical would ever expect anyone to buy this is because of insecurity about their image – insecurity which their adverts help to create. Are men not in need of help with dieting? Or is it expected that, since they don’t wear red dresses like on the Special K box, they’ll just do the Manly Thing and keep drinking their beer-bellies gargantuan, sucking in their gut when a pretty lady walks by? Targeting diet products at women is not just perpetuating a worn-out ad stereotype like women as homemakers or sex objects; it’s stretching the gender gap beyond repair. When men barely get tutted for being an above-average size, women are so fervidly encouraged to look like models that some can end up starving themselves. And defining beauty under “medical”? Maybe the advertising world just holds different definitions to the real world: New Medical Special K: now more effective in keeping you presentable! › On the Road at the British Library XLS Medical’s advert. Photograph: youtube.com Subscribe from £1 a week Subscribe More Related articles UK equities: A logical proposition The case against TTIP There is radical potential in revitalising adult education – why are we letting it disappear?