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article image'Fat shaming' alien abduction ad called 'offensive,' draws ire

By Megan Hamilton     Apr 5, 2016 in Lifestyle
Sawley - When anti-bullying activist Natalie Harvey saw the billboard advertising a local gym, she could hardly believe her eyes.
The billboard advertises the Fit4Less gym in Long Eaton, and it features aliens beaming a person up to their space ship.
The advertisement reads "They're coming...And when they arrive they'll take the FAT ones first!" Then it says "Save yourself!" and an arrow points to the gym's website, the Derby Telegraph reports.
Harvey, 39, is the founder of Combat Bullying. She said she was shocked when she saw the billboard as she was driving with her son, Hugo.
"Just this week alone I've had three cases of bullying due to weight issues and I feel campaigns like this aid bullying," she said. "I couldn't believe it when I saw it, it's 2016 – this sort of fat-shaming humor is offensive."
The poster is mounted on The Co-Operative, a local convenience store on Tamworth Road in Sawley, Derbyshire, and the owners of the store don't like the ad either, Mashable reports.
"As soon as the poster on the side of our store in Tamworth Road, Sawley was brought to our attention we requested the agency responsible to remove it," said a spokesman for the Co-Op.
However, Fit4less has said the ad is light-hearted, news.com.au reports.
Jan Spaticchia is the chief executive of Energie Group, the gym's parent company, refuses to take the billboard ad down, even though the co-op store has asked him to.
The alien campaign is very successful, he noted, and said the aim is to get people talking and to promote the idea of a healthy lifestyle.
He said he weighs 17.5 stone (about 244 lbs), and is healthy, and added that the company doesn't take itself too seriously. He added that a person can be overweight and be healthy and also said that not everyone has to be thin.
There was no intent to cause offense, he said.
"We also believe however that if we are going to reach more people as a sector then we need to stop taking ourselves so seriously and realize that if we want to attract normal people, then we need to be willing to poke fun at ourselves and our messaging is designed to do exactly that."
He also said the company tries to take a lighthearted approach in order to connect with more people, and that the ad was "a little harmless fun."
The co-op has announced it will take the ad down because it is a "sensitive topic," The Telegraph reports.
Harvey said she noticed the billboard Tuesday and realized she couldn't just ignore it.
"Children are so fragile, it just doesn't sit well with me."
She noted if would-be bullies see the poster, they may well use it to cause additional harm by bullying other children.
The poster should be removed, she said, and replaced with an ad that's "more tasteful to attract the gym goers."
More about fat shaming, Gym, Advertisement, natalie harvey, fit4less
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