Ad watchdog bans five versions of Anytime Fitness’ ‘F*ck Unfit’ campaign

The Advertising Standards Board has upheld five different cases regarding Anytime Fitness’ latest campaign ‘F*ck Unfit.’

Anytime Fitness amended its campaign for outdoor use.

While Anytime Fitness toned down the outdoor posters for the campaign in an attempt to avoid a clash with the ASB prior to its launch, the Board has upheld five cases, in turn banning the mail, poster, social, outdoor and SMS formats.

Prior the campaign launch, Arthur McColl, CEO of Anytime Fitness Australia told Mumbrella he would not be apologising for the approach to marketing the brand.

“We are being controversial, we are being disruptive. We are not trying to be offensive, but the reality is Australia is probably now first or second on the obesity chart on the planet. I’m not saying we (Anytime Fitness) are doing it solely, but we do need to shock people into doing something,” Coll told Mumbrella in January.

However, across five separate cases, complaints said the advertising was “offensive,” inappropriate for children and “unnecessary.”

“The “F” word is totally unnecessary and I find it offensive. This would not encourage me to use a gym or get fit with the use of the “F” word. I sent an email to Anytime Fitness and they didn’t really care what my thoughts were as they are trying to promote Australians to get fit. I am appalled!!!” said one complainant about the mailed version of the campaign.

Another complainant told the story of her son discovering the sign.

“My five-year-old son is learning to read and he asked me: ‘What does that word say?’, pointing to the sign. What do I tell him?” the complainant said.

“I told him it’s not a real word, but I would like to know how the company would like me to explain it to a five-year-old. I am not personally offended by people using offensive language, but when it’s in your face like that and obviously being used to get your attention (including children who are currently on school holidays) I am concerned about how companies need to use vulgar means to get people to join their gym/ buy their services or products.”

The new campaign meant to “allude to a strong statement”

Anytime Fitness responded to each claim suggesting the use of language, combined with the fitness brand’s motivational tone could not be deemed “strong, obscene or inappropriate.”

In the case regarding the mail advertisement, Anytime Fitness pointed out the flyers were not intended for children but argued if young children were to find it, they would not “associate the word with an offensive or swear word”.

The company said the campaign was “meant to allude to a strong statement” that they were making in an attempt to combat health problems.

“However, whilst the campaign alludes to the word it does not appear in any of the advertisements in full as the ‘u’ has been replaced with a ‘*’,” Anytime Fitness said of the social advertising.

“The context of the advertisements is the promotion of a physical fitness centre to adult Australians and the word is used in a motivational way to inspire positive change for the betterment of the viewer’s, and ultimately the nation’s, health.”

The ad watchdog concluded that in the case of the flyer in the mail, the advertisement could easily be found by young children who could read and understand the words ‘F*ck Unfit.’

“The majority of the Board considered that community standards research had shown that the word ‘fuck’ is still considered to be obscene by most members of the community, and that this was not appropriate to be used in advertising in a public medium,” the ASB said.

The Board also agreed the posters in the gyms themselves used language that was “too strong for a broad audience.”

The ASB said while the audience was “narrower” in the case of the social campaign than that of the flyers and posters, children using social media and adults would find the phrase “obscene” and “not appropriate in the context of advertising for gymnasium membership”.

The watchdog similarly agreed the SMS and outdoor components of the campaign were also offensive and not appropriate.

Anytime Fitness said they had acknowledged all five decisions on the matter and had discontinued the marketing materials and advertisements associated with the campaign, which concluded on 11 February.

The brand added it would advise its franchise network of the decisions.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.