The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a controversial holiday TV campaign from low-cost European airline Ryanair, now the third-most complained about campaign ever.
The campaign, known as ‘jab and go’, was designed to advertise the airline’s Boxing Day deals, encouraging consumers to book their Easter and summer holidays so they can get vaccinated for COVID-19 and start their travels.
It featured a small bottle labelled ‘vaccine’ and a syringe, and suggested travellers could grab a bargain on European holiday destinations because “you could jab and go”.
As B&T’s sister-publication, Travel Weekly, reports, the ad was rolled out on TV in the UK just weeks after the first COVID-19 jab was administered.
However, the campaign did not have the desired effect and instead stirred 2,370 complaints to the ASA, with some saying it was misleading, others that it was trivialising of ongoing restrictions, and others that it was irresponsible.
Ryanair said the assertions made in the ads were not out of touch with UK government goals and that the ads were designed to be “uplifting and encouraged viewers to consider a brighter future when restrictions were lifted and people could go on holiday with friends and family again”.
Additionally, Ryanair told the ASA that the ads “showed people holidaying within their social bubble, and said that there were no requirements that holidaymakers be shown wearing face masks or social distancing”.
The ASA ruled the ads broke the UK’s ad regulations relating to misleading and irresponsible advertising.
“We therefore considered some viewers were likely to infer that by Easter and summer 2021 it would be possible for anyone to get vaccinated in order to go on a booked holiday, that maximal protection could be achieved immediately through one dose of the vaccine, and that restrictions around social distancing and mask wearing would not be necessary once individuals were vaccinated,” the ASA said in its ruling.
“We considered this could encourage vaccinated individuals to disregard or lessen their adherence to restrictions, which in the short term could expose them to the risk of serious illness, and in the longer term might result in them spreading the virus. As such we considered the ads could encourage people to behave irresponsibly once vaccinated. The ads must not be broadcast again.”
In response to the ruling, a Ryanair spokesperson told B&T: “The ASA’s ruling flies in the face of the UK’s successful vaccine rollout, however even though this ruling is baseless, Ryanair will comply with it and the Jab & Go adverts will not run again.”
According to The Guardian, the ‘jab and go’ campaign sits at third on the most complained about campaigns in history behind Booking.com and Paddy Power.
In a national newspaper ad, Paddy Power promised losing punters their money back if South African athlete Oscar Pistorius was acquitted of allegedly killing his girlfriend. It is the most-complained about UK ad of all time—attracting 5,525 complaints and a ban.
While Booking.com was acquitted by the ASA for its controversial campaign which substituted the word ‘booking’ for a swearword, and prompted 2,451 complaints.
This isn’t the first time Ryanair has landed itself in hot water with the watchdog, after a 2019 ad claiming Ryanair was Europe’s “lowest emissions airline” was labelled “misleading” and in breach of several regulations by ASA.
Note: This article has been updated to reflect comments received from Ryanair.
Featured image source: YouTube/Another World
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