The UK’s advertising watchdog has banned Ryanair’s “jab and go” holiday advertisement campaign, citing concerns it encourages the public to act irresponsibly once they had received the coronavirus vaccine.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the two ads, which were the third-most complained-about of all time, mere days after the airline’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said the vaccine programme would mean Britons could flock to Europe for summer holidays this year.
In one ad, launched on Boxing Day, Ryanair featured a small bottle labelled “vaccine” and a syringe along with the line “you could jab and go”.
“Covid vaccines are coming so book your Easter and summer holidays today with Ryanair,” the ad says, showing groups in their 20s and 30s engaged in activities such as jumping in a pool and being served at a restaurant, with no social distancing or use of face coverings.
The campaign prompted 2,370 complaints. Some complainants said the ad was misleading because it suggested most people would be vaccinated by the spring or summer and that no restrictions would be in place as a result. Others said it was irresponsible because it encouraged people to believe that once they had even the first vaccination shot they would not need to follow health restrictions.
Ryanair has said the underlying message of the ads were not out of step with government goals and were designed to be “uplifting and encourage viewers to consider a brighter future”.
The airline told the ASA that the ads showed people “holidaying in their social bubble” and that there were “no requirements that holidaymakers be shown wearing face masks or social distancing”.
The ASA ruled the ads broke UK regulations relating to misleading and irresponsible advertising.
“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,” the ASA said in its ruling.
“We considered this could encourage vaccinated individuals to disregard or lessen their adherence to restrictions, which 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. The ads must not be broadcast again.”
Ryanair disputed ASA’s findings but has agreed to comply.
“The ASA’s ruling flies in the face of the UK’s successful vaccine rollout,” said a spokesman. “However, even though this ruling is baseless, Ryanair will comply with it and the jab and go adverts will not run again.”