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Ryanair falls foul of advertising rules over ‘vax and go’ holiday advert

The ASAI ruled that the advertising should not run in its current format again.

Image: PA

THE ADVERTISING STANDARDS Authority for Ireland (ASAI) has upheld a complaint about a Ryanair advert which encouraged consumers to book Easter and summer holidays with the airline after having received vaccinations.

The advertising in question appeared on tv from 26 December 2020 to 11 January 2021, and online. 

“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 and Greece and many more, so vax and go,” the tv voiceover stated.

Footage showed groups of people in their 20s and 30s enjoying the holiday destinations.

The advertising on the website included the following: “Book summer”, “vaccines are coming” and “jab and go!”.

Some 59 complaints were made by people who felt the advertising had the potential to mislead consumers and queried whether the advertisement conflicted with public health guidelines.

Others challenged the reference to “Vax and go” and felt that the advertising was “irresponsible, insensitive and offensive and trivialised the effects which the pandemic was having on society and in particular front-line workers”.

Ryanair rejected what they described as baseless complaints and believed they were not representative of the views of the large audience that the advertisement would have reached.

Ryanair said the advertisement was not misleading as it made “no representation, implicitly nor otherwise, to a guarantee that consumers would be able to travel”.

The airline said it factually confirmed that “vaccines are coming” and made no claims concerning who would be vaccinated or by when they would be vaccinated.

Ryanair did not consider that there was anything in the advertisement that would encourage people to disregard public health guidelines such as social distancing and other restrictions and said that ‘reasonable’ viewers would be well aware that travel restrictions constantly change and may prevent customers from travelling.

It added that the advert was not irresponsible, insensitive or offensive, nor did it trivialise the effects of the pandemic on society or front-line workers.

“The advertisement was factually correct in reporting the Government and NPHET position that “vaccines are coming”. It ultimately encouraged travel after vaccination, which was aligned with the Government’s policy of encouraging vaccination,” Ryanair said in response to the ASAI.

But the ASAI said that when the advertising was interpreted together it implied that members of the public could avail of vaccination in time for at least Easter 2021 and that European travel restrictions would permit such travel.

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The ASAI committee considered that it was likely that consumers would interpret the phrase “vax and go”/ “jab and go” as an unequivocal endorsement of vaccinating and travelling unconditionally. It found that the advertising had not been prepared with “a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society”.

The Committee noted that while there was a State vaccination implementation plan in place, at the time of the marketing, projections for the roll-out of the plan across the groups was not in the public domain. 

The ASAI ruled that the advertising should not run in its current format again.

Earlier this month, Ryanair was ordered by the British advertising watchdog to remove a similar advert running in the UK.

The Advertising Standards Authority said it had received 2,370 complaints about the advert. 

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Adam Daly

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