Irish airline Ryanair announced its decision to defy the orders of the UK advertising watchdog, and continue to run a controversial ad that was told to be taken out of circulation.
The airline called the order "absurd." The ad, showing a woman dressed in a provocative schoolgirl outfit, was deemed as "irresponsible" by the Advertising Standards Authority. Underneath the photo was the tagline about the
airline's hottest back to school fares.
The ad appeared in the Herald, Daily Mail, and the Scottish Daily Mail, obtaining a 3.5-million circulation, according to The Press Association.
A total of 13 complains from readers cried out that the ad linked teenage girls to illicit and sexual behaviours. The ASA recently catered to the outcry, ordering the three newspapers to take down the ad and never run it again.
We considered that her appearance and pose, in conjunction with the heading 'hottest' appeared to link teenage girls with sexually provocative behavior and was irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence, the ASA was
quoted as saying.
The airline responded by saying that 13 complaints out of a more than 3 million readership was an "insignificant" proportion.
It is remarkable that a fully clothed model is now claimed to cause 'serious or widespread offence', said Ryanair head of communications Peter Sherrard, when many of the UK's leading daily newspapers regularly run pictures of topless or
partially dressed females without causing any serious or widespread offence. Sherrard continued by calling the ASA demanding orders for censorship's sake, and not advertising regulations.
The ASAs decision not to invoke its ultimate sanction and refer Ryanair to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), despite repeated breaches of ASA regulations, has raised questions about whether self-regulation in advertising is really working.
The ASA claims that advertisers who persistently breach its non-broadcast advertising codes are referred to the OFT, but only after a 'longlist' of other sanctions have been considered.
A spokesman for the ASA said a referral would be made only under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations, while offensive ads are governed by rules on breaches of taste and decency: Only when other sanctions have been exhausted,
such as refusing an advertiser media space, invoking compulsory pre-vetting, or taking away trading privileges, do we consider a referral. In most cases, sanctions are effective in bringing advertisers into line.'
Ryanair's latest breach was of the taste and decency rules, and the sanction the ASA imposed was to issue an alert to newspapers instructing them not to run the ad.
The Irish low budget airline Ryanair is being prosecuted by gender extremists in Spain over the production of their 2013 calendar featuring female cabin crew in bikinis.
Groups in Spain's Malaga province claim the calendar is 'offensive' and exploits female employees. They claim that the public use of these images is illegal.
The case is set to be heard before a three-judge panel on April 30.
The calendar is sold on all Ryanair flights for $12 and all proceeds go to the Polish TVN Foundation, which helps children suffering with cystic fibrosis. The company expects to raise $128,508 for the charity.