Two ads from the airline were branded ‘irresponsible’ by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which confirmed it was the third most complained about ad of all time.
Two television adverts from Ryanair have been banned by the ASA, after the regulator received 2,370 complaints over the airline’s ‘jab and go’ messaging.
The first ad was seen on television between 26 December and 3 January, with the second airing from 4 January with a different price offer.
Both versions contained the same voice-over, which said: “Covid vaccines are coming. So book your Easter and summer holidays today with Ryanair.
“One million seats on sale from £19.99 to sunshine destinations in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece and many more. So you could jab and go!”
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In its assessment published on Wednesday, the ASA found that the adverts breached advertising codes on misleading and responsible advertising, but ruled that it had not violated rules on harm and offence.
Responding to complaints, the organisation said it was “highly unlikely” that groups not included in phase one of the vaccine rollout would be “maximally protected” by Easter or summer 2021 to be able to go on holiday.
“We also understood that while the vaccines were proven to provide protection for individuals against developing serious illness, vaccinated individuals might still be infected with, or spread, the virus and were therefore advised to continue social distancing and mask-wearing.
“In that context we understood that any travel restrictions […] and other restrictions such as social distancing and mask-wearing were likely to remain the same for both vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals in at least the short to medium-term.
“We therefore concluded that the implication in the ads that most people who wished to go on holiday at Easter or summer 2021 would be vaccinated in time to do so, and that being vaccinated against Covid-19 would allow people to go on holiday without restrictions during those periods, was misleading,” their ruling reads.
The implication is also cited in its decision on responsible advertising, describing the airline’s ‘jab and go’ messaging as one which “suggested immediacy”, and could encourage those who have been vaccinated to “disregard or lessen” their following of the rules.
“[This] 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.
“We further considered the ads encouraged people to behave irresponsibly by prompting those who were not yet eligible to be vaccinated to contact GPs or other NHS services, in an attempt to arrange vaccination at a time when health services were under particular strain,” it goes on to add.
After being approached by the ASA for a response to the complaints, Ryanair said they did not “claim that vaccinations were a prerequisite to travel”, with the word ‘could’ in the line “so you could jab and go” removing any guarantee that people looking to travel at Easter or in the summer would be vaccinated in time.
“[Ryanair] said the Government had used the term “jab” to describe the vaccines and they did not think viewers would interpret the word, when used in the ads, to refer to a single dose of vaccine.
“Viewers would understand the ads envisaged a hypothetical Easter or summer holiday. Ryanair considered that the average UK consumer was familiar with information about the vaccines, their rollout schedule, travel restrictions and the inherent uncertainty in the travel industry.
“In that context they believed the ads’ claims that ‘vaccines are coming’ and that ‘you could jab and go’ were not misleading to consumers, who would be able to make an informed decision about whether they wished to book flights,” the response reads.
However, the ASA ruled that the two adverts were in breach of rules set by the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP), with the commercials being banned from airing again in the same form.
The full decision from the ASA can be found on the organisation’s website.