For possibly the first time, an ASA complaint report reveals that as the BACC’s paymaster, ITV sometimes ignores the TV ad vetting body’s opinions. Unfortunately for ITV and Ryanair’s ‘£0′ flight price claim, in this case the BACC was vindicated.
Who: Ryanair Limited
Where: ASA, London
When: 8 November 2006
A TV ad, for Ryanair, featured large onscreen text that stated "4 MILLION SEATS £0 FARE". A voiceover said "Ryanair, Britain's biggest passenger airline, has released four million zero fare seats on its website in an amazing autumn sale. To book your zero fare seat, departing from one of 20 UK airports, just click on to Ryanair.com, the website of Britain's biggest passenger airline. All fares under this offer are zero. Only taxes and charges are payable and we guarantee no fuel surcharges." Small text at the bottom stated "Only taxes and charges apply. Subject to availability … must end Thursday 14th September".
Monarch Airlines complained to the Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA"), stating that the ad breached rule 5.3.2 (pricing requirements) of the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice Television Advertising Standards Code ("the Code") because it did not state the price of seats inclusive of all non-optional taxes and charges.
Ryanair ran the ad earlier this year, against the advice of the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre ("BACC"), which refused to clear the ad because it breached the Code and warned that running the ad would result in complaints to the ASA.
ITV said that they accepted the ad for broadcast because they were firmly of the opinion that it complied with the Code. ITV also noted that the complaint was from a competitor and not form one of the 16 million viewers, who they allege, were watching when the ad was shown. In addition the exclusion of the non-optional charges from the stated price were impossible to quantify, as the flight cost was comprised of constituent parts and the non-optional charges associated with the offer varied between the 20 different departure airports linked to the promotion.
Furthermore ITV argued that it was the responsibility of the broadcaster to ensure compliance with the Code and although they valued the opinions of the BACC, with which they usually agreed, they were not bound to follow their recommendations if they believed the ad complied with the Code.
The ASA upheld the complaint. It noted that the non-optional charges for the 20 UK airports included in the offer were in a defined range of between £11.70 and £21.70, dependant on the point of departure. Therefore in this instance the lowest amount payable for a seat could have been stated, preceding that price with "from" and indicating that this cost was dependant on the departure point.
Why this matters:
This adjudication includes what we believe to be the first open admission by ITV that it will not necessarily follow the views of the BACC. Too bad for ITV that the BACC's position was vindicated, and with good reason in our view.