Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ryanair’s “jocular comment” escapes ASA censure

Ryanair’s reputation precedes them. Being in somewhat of a travel lull at the moment, I’ve yet to try out their Belfast City to London flights, so I’ll reserve judgement (and comment).

Low cost pervades all aspects of Ryanair, including their marketing department. They don’t use advertising agencies. Instead, staff make up the familiar adverts that they plaster across national and local, often reacting to events in the news or other airline’s misfortunate with jokes, jibes and corny humour.

Ryanair advert - with Martin McGuinness and a speech bubble suggesting Ryanair fares are so low even the British Army flew home - via

On the 13th August, Ryanair placed the advert reproduced on the right in the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph.

It attracted some controversy at the time (though not enough for me to have noticed the news stories) and the Advertising Standards Agency received four complaints.

At the time, Michael Copeland (UUP MLA) voiced his protest and insisted

“... I would recommend that Ryanair focuses on what it does best: cheap flights, rather than offending people with crass advertising like this.”

After due deliberation, the ASA published their adjudication yesterday. The Belfast Telegraph were reported to believe that

“the ad was not offensive and should be viewed as a jocular comment on the changed political environment of Northern Ireland.”

They noted that as a Northern Ireland newspaper

“... they had operated in difficult circumstances over the last 30 years and that they took great care to be sensitive to the political opinion of their readers and to avoid publishing anything which they believed could cause offence.”

(No one seemed to complain about the ad appearing in the Irish News, just the Belfast Telegraph.)

In its conclusion, the ASA

“... noted the ad was topical at the time it was published, due to the well-reported withdrawal of the army regiments back to mainland Britain.

We acknowledged that the complainants had found the approach tasteless in the context of the recent political history of Northern Ireland, which had included acts of violence.

However, we considered that, in the context of an ad for flights departing from Belfast, the use of the picture of the two well-known Sinn Fein politicians and the reference to the British Army would be understood by most readers as a light-hearted reference to the recent withdrawal of troops from Northern Ireland.

We considered that readers were unlikely to infer from the ad that British troops were not at home in Northern Ireland and concluded that it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, or cause distress to most readers of the Belfast Telegraph.”

None of the complaints were upheld. Expect more locally-focussed ads as Ryanair steps up its routes out of Belfast.

(And thanks to Laurent over at who scanned in and blogged about the original advert and the aftermath.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great ad though, isn't it?