Gymbox marketing director urges brands to call out fake ads

Gymbox marketing director urges brands to call out fake ads

Gymbox’s brand and marketing director Rory McEntee wrote a column earlier this year about the rise of fake ads and how brands need to call them out.

This is despite last week’s incident in which the London gym chain circulated a press release about a fictitious “bus top ad” in London for its aerial yoga and pilates classes.

Global and Transport for London (TfL) confirmed that no such ad had been booked, not least because modern regulations prevent bus roof ads from being sold as ad inventory.

In a statement, McEntee claimed to have come up with the idea while doing an aerial class himself. This was covered in various publications, including The Media Leader.

As a result, this week outdoor media owners including Clear Channel and Ocean, as well as the UK trade body for outdoor advertising Outsmart, warned against the damage brands could do to their perception by consumers through using fake out-of-home ads.

In an opinion piece published by Marketing Week just three months ago, McEntee said the fan-made Guinness coronation advert, which pictured the foam on the pint appearing like a crown, got him thinking about how big a risk these were to brands, whether they were good or bad.

“I found myself wondering how I would feel if spoof ads were doing the rounds of my brand – Gymbox – the brand I’ve been brought in to manage, build and protect,” McEntee wrote.

Gymbox’s press office has not responded to repeated requests for comment on why it publicised a fictitious ad, and has not responded to an invitation for an interview.

In his column about fake ads, McEntee urged brands to “consider how to protect themselves from copycat efforts”, especially as he predicted more spoof ads in future made at speed because of developments in social media and generative AI.

He admitted Gymbox had already tested both copy and images with AI, and while he felt “it’s not quite there yet”, he clarified the brand would not launch a campaign with it.

McEntee added: “For those of us brand guardians, we will test AI executions but ultimately decide if it is good enough to launch to market. Those who are creating fake adverts may be happier to share the work in progress and less crafted AI adverts to the world. Again, I question the risk to long term brand equity.”

He emphasised “brand custodians” should ultimately have accountability and control over how their brands are portrayed to consumers, and “cannot stay silent” around fake ads, especially as they have become “so common” and “professionally produced” to the point it is difficult to tell the difference between what is real and what is not.

McEntee concluded his piece by saying: “The line is being deliberately blurred. So it is up to us as brand custodians to protect our brands, even if we can’t always control what people do with them.”

Podcast: Why OOH audiences have not hit a ‘new normal’ yet – with Route’s Denise Turner

Adwanted UK is the trusted delivery partner for three essential services which deliver accountability, standardisation, and audience data for the out-of-home industry. Playout is Outsmart’s new system to centralise and standardise playout reporting data across all outdoor media owners in the UK. SPACE is the industry’s comprehensive inventory database delivered through a collaboration between IPAO and Outsmart. The RouteAPI is a SaaS solution which delivers the ooh industry’s audience data quickly and simply into clients’ systems. Contact us for more information on SPACE, J-ET, Audiotrack or our data engines.

Media Jobs