Equinox's risqué ads stirring controversy

- Equinox is as much a lifestyle brand as a fitness club -- says the team behind the seductive ad campaign. But the campaign is raising eyebrows for many on social media.

We spoke with some Equinox members about the company’s new ads filled with risqué snapshots.

“Wow, I was a little shocked, but you know, today, anything goes,” said a female Equinox member we spoke with. “It's a little over the top.”

“I think they're kind of bold and out there and that's how Equinox is,” said another female member. “That's kind of why it's my favorite club.”

“I think it's creative and I think they are doing what it takes to get more business,” said a male Equinox member.

Or buzz. There was plenty to go around on social media. Twitter users called Equinox’s #CommitToSomething campaign a “rare miss.” One asked, “What the heck does this have to do with fitness or motivation?”

“It's different, it's a natural thing, it may offend some people, but not me,” said JC Barbosa.

He is a member at Equinox’s Washington D.C. location. Barbosa was referring to an Equinox ad showing an ultra-fit woman breastfeeding two babies with the caption: “Table for one, dinner for three.”

However, Barbosa said it does not make him want to buy a gym membership or workout.

“No, it doesn't encourage me to do so,” Barbosa said. “It encourages to do something natural, I suppose.”

The upscale sports club has three gyms in the D.C. metropolitan area.

Several members opened their email Wednesday morning to the racy pictures.

“That's something that perhaps you see in Europe,” said Barbosa. “You don't necessarily see that sort of thing in America. Not necessarily offensive, but somehow different.”

Wieden+Kennedy New York is the creative agency behind the campaign. They said their goal is to get some conversation going. They also said the real world has controversy and opinions and all the messy stuff of life.

Interestingly enough, Equinox said it would never show a treadmill in any of its ads.

Statement from Wieden+Kennedy New York about the Commit To Something campaign:

WHY SUCH PROVOCATIVE IMAGES?

The idea isn’t to provoke just for provocation’s sake.

We loved the idea of commitment. However, Equinox is as much a lifestyle brand as a fitness club. So that gives us leeway to get outside of being just another gym showing yet another gym shot. We could be more interesting than that.

So when it came to the executions, our goal was to dig in to commitment. We wanted to explore all the ways of committing (good or bad) and see how far we could take them because that’s when it started getting interesting. That was the work we reacted to. Our goal wasn’t to be passive, but get some sort of conversation going.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT REACTIONS?

It’s great.

The tagline of Equinox is “It’s not fitness, it’s life.” What’s compelling about a statement like that is it lets you get out of the fitness world in to the real world. The real world has controversy and opinions and all the messy stuff of life.

So we think the response has been great. That anyone is taking a side on an ad (pro or con) is unusual. The fact that it has been overwhelmingly positive and keeps continuing is even better.

Statement from Carlos Becil, the CMO of Equinox, about the ad campaign:

WHY SUCH PROVOCATIVE IMAGES?

"As a brand, Equinox strives to be provocative, so these images are intended to spark  a conversation. You can see it's obviously all about commitment, but really about how commitment is real," Equinox Chief Marketing Officer Carlos Becil says.

"What we tried to do was create a range of how it could really be seen through various socially relevant conversations or topics. The word commitment is thrown around a lot―at Equinox [we and our members] are pretty much obsessed with it. And we're also recognizing and cognizant that we live in a world today that is lacking commitment. We thought it was the right message at the right time and [we wanted] to bring that message through not just fitness, but what are really thought-provoking images."

"Some of the images are more tongue-in-cheek, like a shot of a super committed cat lady and we wanted to add something that was just fun and playful...it should have a little lightness because it could be as simple as her having a commitment to her last dog or cat," says Becil.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT REACTIONS?

"The images are meant to be open-ended and interpreted and more conversation-worthy," says Becil, Equinox Chief Marketing Officer. "I'm sure the images will get reinterpreted many different ways. And we're okay with that."

"The beauty of the campaign and the brand is that it's not for everyone, and we're okay with that," Becil says. "Some [people] are loving it and really get that that's our point of view, so I won't be surprised if there's comments out there that also questioning, 'Why is a fitness company doing these kind of lifestyle images?' and 'Why aren't we doing fitness images?' [Which becomes], Why don't you show somebody on a treadmill?' which is something we'd never do."

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