Ryanair has needled the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) with a provocative ‘jab and go’ advert that has drawn thousands of complaints from viewers.
Premiering online and on TV screens from Boxing Day, the ill-timed campaign coincided with the imposition of mandatory travel curbs across much of the country, with international travel now grounded once again.
Ryanair in hot water
The ill-fated commercial saw Ryanair illustrate a small bottle labelled ’vaccine’ alongside a syringe in a none-too-subtle attempt to inject some optimism into an anxious public looking ahead to the Easter break.
Clashing with official government advice, the commercial’s voiceover intoned: “Covid vaccines are coming so book your Easter and summer holidays today with Ryanair.“
It continued: “1 million seats on sale from £19.99 to sunshine destinations in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece and many more, so you could jab and go.“
This messaging is also at odds with Ryanair’s policy not to ask passengers for proof of vaccinations when using its services.
Far from drawing a line under the matter, the piece has stirred a hornet’s nest, with the ASA receiving around 1,600 complaints and counting.
The majority of complainants assert that the campaign “misleadingly suggests that the vaccine will have been successfully rolled out across the population by spring/summer, and that travel restrictions won’t apply by then“.
Others take umbrage at the apparent trivialisation of the pandemic and its far-reaching impact on individuals and society.
Ryanair is no stranger to turbulence having been on the receiving end of a succession of reprimands and rebukes from the ASA over the years – notably, a 2018 campaign in which a man was depicted asleep on the beach next to an empty bottle of alcohol. The tagline ran: “Book on Ryanair.com in between ‘studying’ tonight. This could be you.“
Attempting to lead the narrative on Covid is a risky strategy at the best of times, but it is particularly fraught at a time when the ASA is cracking down on a spate of fake coronavirus treatment ads that have forced the body to dedicate more resources to this area.
The ASA is currently reviewing the case and will adjudicate on the matter “in due course“.