Ryanair has been ordered to remove two TV adverts encouraging people to ‘jab and go’ by the UK Advertising Stands Authority (ASA), branding them as ‘misleading and irresponsible.’ The two ads, which debuted on St Stephen’s Day and ran over the new year, prompted 2,370 complaints to the advertising watchdog, the third-most of all time.
As we reported last week, the ASA ruled that the ad, which featured a medical syringe labelled ‘VACCINE,’ a large text that read ‘Jab & Go’ and whose voiceover urged viewers to book their Easter and summer holidays, could not run in its current form. A second ad debuted on January 4 and included the same imagery, on-screen text and voice-over, except it referred to a different price offer.
Yesterday, February 2, the ASA upheld its ruling and told the airline to remove the ads altogether. In explaining its ruling, the ASA outlined that complainants felt the claim ‘Jab & Go’ implied that most of the 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; that the ads trivialised the ongoing restrictions and were therefore ‘irresponsible.’
‘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.’
In its rebuttal, Ryanair argued that context was key and that any reasonable member of the public would therefore understand that two doses of vaccine were needed to provide effective protection against Covid-19, and that immunity was not granted instantaneously but instead built over time. They 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.
The ASA concluded the ads were misleading and irresponsible but rejected another assertion by complainants that the way in which the ads linked the start of the vaccine rollout to being able to go on holiday trivialised the need to prioritise the vaccine to those who were most medically vulnerable, and was insensitive to the pandemic’s impact on those who had been ill or who had lost someone to Covid-19, who worked on the frontline or who would not be able to be vaccinated. The ASA said the ads did not breach the ‘harm and offense’ section of the advertising code as they did not make any reference to those groups, “and whilst the tone was celebratory we did not consider it trivialised the wider impacts of the pandemic. Whilst we acknowledged that many viewers had found the tone of the ads distasteful we considered they were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.”