x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Dubai gym's latest controversial ad has 'gone too far', says former client

'I'm outraged and disgusted,' said Khaled Akbik, 34, a former Circuit Factory customer, after watching the 12-minute YouTube clip that kicks off the gym's latest campaign. 'I'm all for creativity and genuineness, but this ad is extremely distasteful, inappropriate and utterly offensive.'

"I'm outraged and disgusted," said Khaled Akbik, a former Circuit Factory customer who watched the controversial advertisement by the Dubai-based gym. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // The fitness gym that brought us images of a Nazi concentration camp last year has posted another controversial advertisement on YouTube this week.

Dubai-based Circuit Factory has posted a video suggesting lack of exercise could make a woman less desirable to her partner and, in turn, change his sexual orientation.

"I'm outraged and disgusted," said Khaled Akbik, 34, a former Circuit Factory customer, after watching the 12-minute YouTube clip that kicks off the gym's latest campaign: Bent: Getting Our Priority Straight.

The explicit video stars the gym's founder, Phil Parkinson, 32, playing the male role in a relationship gone stale. His character is moved by the Hollywood film Brokeback Mountain and he shows interest in other men's Facebook accounts.

Mr Parkinson's acting partner catches him in precarious situations and discovers phone calls to him from men she does not know, which he attempts to hide.

Every scene clearly indicates the man's attraction to the same sex and disinterest in his female partner.

Realising she is losing her man, the woman joins the Circuit Factory gym, which eventually transforms her into the attractive figure desired by her man.

"This time they've gone too far and I feel obliged to do something about it," said Mr Akbik, who has already complained to Dubai Police via its Al Ameen online portal service and its Twitter account.

"I believe it's time someone put an end to this. People go to jail or get penalised here for far less."

Mr Akbik, a Syrian, was born and raised in the UAE and said that, as an Emriati-based business, Circuit Factory should be sensitive to the country's Islamic and Arabic culture and values.

"I'm all for creativity and genuineness, but this ad is extremely distasteful, inappropriate and utterly offensive. I know many who are not Arabs or Muslims who also found this ad very distasteful."

Another former Circuit Factory member said she quit the gym after a few months specifically because of its sexist and "size-ist" marketing techniques.

"I don't agree with the fat-shaming they use in a lot of their marketing materials," said Annie Meikle, 33, who did not understand why the gym opted for controversial advertising.

"I guess they feel that the 'bad publicity is good publicity' model works well for them."

This is not the first time the gym has used shock advertisement to turn heads as last year it advertised a photo of Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the notorious Nazi concentration camp, with the slogan: "Kiss your calories goodbye," to promote another campaign.

After attracting international criticism, Mr Parkinson removed the images, apologised and donated Dh3,900 to a UK Holocaust survivor charity.

But the gym used provocative advertising once again earlier this year when they released another YouTube video titled: Virginity: Return to Innocence.

"However colourfully we choose to brand ourselves, the message must always come back to one fundamental truth: Circuit Factory gets results," wrote Mr Parkinson on they gym's Facebook page when he posted the video on August 12.

"I never want to lose the side of Circuit Factory that makes it so unique but, at the same time, I don't want that side to overpower the reason why we do what we do."

Mr Parkinson, who is British, did not reply to attempts by The National to reach him and a Circuit Factory employee refused to comment.

However, the company later posted on Facebook that they were not advocating anything with their video, but merely expressing their belief in freedom.

Some took to social media to criticise the gym's latest YouTube video, which has received more than 2,500 views since it was released on Monday. The gym is running a promotion asking members to repost the video and get others to "like" it.

"It's wrong on so many levels, not funny and sexist…very very tasteless," said @Alan_Azar1h on Twitter.

YouTube comments included "This campaign video is tasteless and repugnant on so many levels - women need to get in shape to pleasure their men, or else men will "develop" an attraction towards their own sex??"

However, Tatiana Djabulu, 27, a current member of the gym, said she saw no problems with this latest video.

"I don't see it as an offensive video and it only motivates, encourages and pushes me."

She said she has seen great results from taking up Circuit Factory's challenges.

"Dubai is a liberal place with many liberal pockets so I think the play of humour makes it a smart and intelligent and acceptable video."

tsubaihi@thenational.ae