The ASA has upheld complaints about a newspaper advert Ryanair ran last autumn, which featured a picture of a model dressed in a skimpy schoolgirl outfit under the headline ‘Hottest’, above the legend ‘Back to School fares’.
Displaying powers of detection that Sherlock Holmes would be proud of, the ASA concluded that because the model was dressed as a schoolgirl and pictured in a classroom, the ad ‘strongly suggested she was a schoolgirl’. They concluded, not unreasonably, that the girl’s appearance and pose ‘appeared to link teenage girls with sexually provocative behaviour’ and was therefore ‘irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence’.
However, Ryanair sees it as a veritable outrage that anyone could think using a picture of a scantily-clad schoolgirl (dressed in a miniskirt, knee-high socks, and a shirt that showed her bare midriff) to flog cheap flights was in any way inappropriate. In a statement, it called the decision ‘bizarre… remarkable… and out of touch…even by the absurd standards of the ASA quango’. It’s now refusing to pull the advert.
Its argument seems to be that TV and newspaper adverts regularly run pictures of topless or scantily-clad women, whereas their model is (technically) fully dressed. So that’s OK then. ‘This isn’t advertising regulation, it is simply censorship,’ it blustered with typical restraint today. ‘This bunch of unelected, self-appointed dimwits are clearly incapable of fairly and impartially ruling on advertising’.
It probably didn’t help that the ASA has also upheld a complaint a separate complaint about another Ryanair advert. This one proudly boasted ‘The lowest fares from Britain. £10 All In!’- whereas in fact there was only a limited number of these available (apparently it should have written ‘From £10’). And naturally these fares didn’t include all Ryanair’s hidden extras. Our editor’s blood is still boiling from the time that he bought 4 flights to Italy for 1p each – only for the total bill to come to £180.
Ryanair clearly likes picking fights with regulators, or rivals, or watchdogs, or in fact virtually anyone that crosses its path. If nothing else, it tends to get some good publicity out of it. But we can’t help feeling that when it comes to adverts featuring schoolgirls, it doesn’t have a scantily-clad leg to stand on.