The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has taken Ryanair’s controversial ‘Jab & Go’ holiday TV campaign off-air for endorsing reckless behavior by passengers once they have received a coronavirus vaccination shot.
Outraged audiences deluged the ASA with complaints, making it the third-most complained about marketing campaign on record, but the no-frills airline hit back, arguing the piece was meant to be ’uplifting’ and it did not consider the content to be insensitive to victims of Covid-19.
Ryanair rapped for ‘irresponsible’ ad
Ryanair has been forced to curtail an ’irresponsible’ TV advertising campaign after receiving 2,370 complaints about propagating misleading information around coronavirus vaccinations
The reckless ad encouraged viewers to book their Easter and summer holidays, suggesting that passengers were free to ’Jab & Go’ after receiving their inoculation.
To reinforce this message, archive footage was shown of care-free 20- to 30-year-olds enjoying foreign vacations from the pre-Covid era.
Such advice flew in the face of official guidance cautioning against unnecessary travel, by implying that people would be free to travel as early as the spring.
Others felt the tone to be as inappropriate as the content, arguing that the advert trivialized the pandemic and risked undermining public acceptance of current restrictions.
In its defense, Ryanair countered that ’important contextual factors’ needed to be evaluated when considering the ad, such as the fluid nature of travel restrictions and widespread awareness of the vaccination roll-out.
The airline also covered itself by pointing to the fact that it made no specific claims around when, how or to whom vaccines ought to be delivered, nor how long it would take to acquire immunity.
Instead, Ryanair said it was merely articulating ’optimistic’ government estimates that a substantial chunk of the population would be vaccinated by June.
The ASA was having none of this, however, and declared the material to be in breach of the advertising code, ruling: ”We 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.”
Ryanair has now acquiesced to this demand but delivered a parting shot suggesting that the ASA’s response was at odds with the government’s vaccination program.
A warning to brands
Swift action by the ASA serves as a warning to others contemplating any marketing missives centered on a ’complex and constantly evolving’ pandemic.
Rather than risk sowing confusion and uncertainty, other brands have sought to harness their reach to accelerate the vaccine roll-out, with BrewDog, Boots and Superdrug all playing a part as brands and businesses pool their resources to launch Covid-19 vaccination sites, provide refrigeration capacity and counter unfounded anti-vaxxer messages.
This is far from the first time Ryanair has fallen on the wrong side of an ASA judgement, having previously courted controversy with the sexist portrayal of stewardesses and promoting ’misleading’ CO2 emission claims.