Ryanair’s Jab & Go ad campaign has been banned, upholding complaints the ads encouraged people to act in a potentially irresponsible manner once they have received a Covid vaccination.
According to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), 2,370 people complained about the ads, the first of which ran from 26 December 2020 to 3 January 2021 and the second from 4 January 2021.
Both adverts were broadly similar, featuring an image of a syringe and glass vial accompanied by on-screen text, which read "vaccines are coming" and later "jab & go".
A voiceover said: "Vaccines are coming, so book your Easter and summer holiday today with Ryanair… so you could jab and go."
Accompanying footage, meanwhile, showed groups of people in their 20s and 30s enjoying their getaways, and taking part in what some complainants suggested was irresponsible behaviour in light of the pandemic such as not observing social distancing or wearing face coverings.
The ASA investigated three issues with the ads: firstly, that they implied most of the UK populating would be vaccinated against Covid by spring/summer 2021 and would be able to holiday free of the rules and restrictions relating both to travel and living in a world where Covid remained at large. This complaint was upheld.
"The ads misleadingly provided consumers with a reassurance that being vaccinated against Covid-19 was likely to allow them to go on holiday without restrictions," said the watchdog.
Secondly, complainants said the ads were offensive, claiming they trivialised the Covid restrictions in place around the world and the effects of the pandemic on society and individuals. The ASA did not uphold this issue.
"While we acknowledged many viewers found the tone of the ads distasteful, we considered they were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence," said the ASA.
It did, however, uphold complaints that the ads, particularly Ryanair’s "jab & go" claim, were irresponsible.
In a potentially worrying development for the travel industry, the watchdog said that owing to the fast-changing nature of the pandemic, it was important advertisers exercised caution when linking developments in the UK’s response to specific timeframes concerning when life might return to some level of normality.
The ASA said advertisers must be particularly cautious of this in reference to consumer confidence in making purchasing decisions – such as booking a holiday.
"It’s important all travel companies take particular care, at a time of significant uncertainty about when lockdown restrictions will end, not to mislead or over exaggerate when it will be possible for people to go on holiday," the BBC reports the ASA as saying.
A Ryanair spokesperson said: “The ASA’s ruling flies in the face of the UK’s successful vaccine rollout, however, even though this ruling is baseless, Ryanair will comply with it and the Jab & Go adverts will not run again.”
Ryanair added the ads were based on the success of the vaccine rollout in its early stages and government confidence in the rollout.
"The baseless claims the ASA have used in their determination now means all advertising by airlines, tour operators and travel agents for travel or holidays this Easter and summer should also be banned," said the budget carrier.