Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Ryanair DAC (Ryanair)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 3 February 2021
Law stated as at: 4 February 2021
Two TV ads from Ryanair have become the ASA’s third-most complained about ad of all time. The ASA received 2,370 complaints which led to the ASA fast-tracking the adjudication.
The two ads, largely the same, showed the an image of a medical syringe, a vial labelled “VACCINE”, large on-screen text which stated “VACCINES ARE COMING” and a voice-over saying “…so you could jab and go…”.
Complainants, who felt that the claim and the ads were not only irresponsible and offensive by trivialising the effect and restrictions of the pandemic, but also that the claim “jab and go” implied that most of the UK population would be successfully vaccinated against Covid-19 by spring/summer 2021 and would be able to holiday unaffected by travel or other restrictions related to the pandemic.
Ryanair argued that the contextual factors around which the ads were seen, which must be taken to account when considering the ads. They also argued that alongside the general awareness around the Covid-19 vaccine and changing restrictions relating to international travel, that the ads stated that “vaccines are coming” and did not make any claims around who, how or when vaccines should be administered.
Ryanair also believed that the use of the conditional word “could” in the claim avoided any guarantee in the ads that people who wished to travel at Easter or summer 2021 would be vaccinated in time to do so.
They claimed that the ads were intended to be uplifting and encouraging to viewers rather than insensitive to those who had dealt with Covid-19, had lost people to the virus or to front line workers.
The ASA however considered that, although information surrounding Covid-19, the vaccine and other restrictions were widely available, the complex and constantly evolving nature of this means that consumers could easily be confused or uncertain about the situation at any given time and how it might develop throughout 2021.
The ASA considered that the specific references to Easter and summer holidays directly linked the rollout of the vaccine & provided reassurance to viewers that they could feel confident about booking flights, because they would be vaccinated by the time of their holiday.
Why this matters:
Advertisers should be cautious when linking developments in the UK’s response to the pandemic to specific timeframes around which life might return to some level of normality, particularly when linking it to how confident consumers could be when making purchasing decisions.
Although the ads used the conditional word “could” in the voice-over claim the ASA considered that conditionality was overridden by the overall impact of the other elements of the ad.
The ASA also considered that the claim “jab and go” 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 the ad did not make any reference to impacted groups and whilst the tone was celebratory, the ASA did not consider it trivialised the wider impacts of the pandemic. Whilst the ASA acknowledged that many viewers had found the tone of the ads distasteful, they considered that is was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.