A NATIONAL gym chain has been blasted for putting up a giant billboard saying fat people will be abducted by ALIENS.
The controversial 20ft-high poster was put up to advertise Fit4Less on the side of a Co-operative store overlooking a busy road.
It shows a green alien and a person being beamed up by a green light into a spaceship.
The text on the gigantic billboard reads: “They’re coming…and when they arrive they’ll take the FAT ones first!”
It also says “Save yourself!” next to an arrow pointing to the gym’s website.
Fit4Less – which has a branch on Eldene Drive in Swindon – has now been criticised for encouraging bullying by putting up the giant advert on Tamworth Road in Sawley, Derbys.
Parliamentary advisory Natalie Harvey, 39, who founded Nottinghamshire charity Combat Bullying, accused the gym of “fat-shaming”.
The mum-of-two, who lives in Long Eaton, Derbys., and is a member of an all-parliamentary group set up to tackle bullying, said: “Just this week alone I’ve had three cases of bullying due to weight issues and I feel campaigns like this aid bullying.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. It’s 2016, this sort of fat-shaming humour is offensive.
“I first spotted it on Tuesday and I thought ‘I can’t just keep driving past’, we have a responsibility to say something.
“Children are so fragile, it just doesn’t sit well with me.
“If those children or the perpetrators saw this poster it would cause further harm for the children who are being bullied.
“The poster should be removed and replaced with something more tasteful to attract the gym goers.”
Lorry driver Gary Turner, 44, who lives in Sawley, added: “I’ve always been a big chap and I am quite comfortable with my size.
“But when I saw that giant poster it did make me feel a bit self-conscious.
“It is just embarrassing that a big company like that has to resort to the kind of childish bullying humour you would get in a playground.
“It is a classic example of fat-shaming, they have even put the word fat in big pink capital letters, it just isn’t on.”
Bosses at the Co-operative food shop also said they had asked for the advert to be removed from the side of their store.
A spokesman said: “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.”
But yesterday Fit4Less defended the billboard and said they wanted to take a “lighthearted approach” to their advertising.
Jan Spaticchia, the chief executive of the gym’s parent company Energie Group, said: “The aliens campaign is actually very successful.
“We aim to get people talking and promote the notion of a healthy lifestyle.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously. I’m a 45-year-old man who is 17.5 stone and proud of it but I’m healthy with it.
“There is such a thing as being overweight and healthy, not everyone has to be skinny.
“We certainly didn’t mean to cause offence and we care about the relationships that we build with the communities that we serve.
“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 realise 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.
“We have found that by taking a lighted-hearted approach we can connect with more people who would enjoy what we have to offer. It’s a little harmless fun.”
Mr Spaticchia also refused to take the poster down but the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said anyone with any concerns should complain to them
An ASA spokesman said: “Without launching an investigation and going through our processes, the ASA can’t comment on whether this ad is ethical or breaks the rules.
“The ASA isn’t a censor, so it’s not for us to ban ads on the grounds of offence if we haven’t received any complaints.
“The UK Advertising Codes state that no ad should contain anything which is likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
“The ASA judges whether these rules have been broken by taking into account the audience, context and medium in which the ad appears as well as judging prevailing standards in society.
“Ads can be distasteful without necessarily breaking the rules and judging whether something is offensive always represents a challenge for the ASA if only because what one person finds offensive another will not.
“We have to make a balanced judgement taking into account all the factors I’ve outlined.
“Where the rules have been broken we will not hesitate to take action and have it removed.”