Today’s Guardian includes this article about the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banning a recent Spring flights advertisement from Ryanair. The ad features a girl in a bikini and was the subject of a complaint because the destinations on offer were unlikely to produce temperatures in excess of 10ºC. This was misleading according to the complainant (there is no information to suggest that there was more than one complaint).
Clearly, the canny complainant was sharp enough not to have been mislead. And as there appear to have been no complaints from anybody booking the flights, we have to assume that all of those who saw and acted upon the ad also had the requisite number of brain cells to calculate that packing a bikini to visit Oslo in February would have been a pretty dumb use of Ryanair’s minimal free baggage allowance.
Nevertheless, the ASA found as follows:
“We considered that the average consumer would infer from the claim ‘Book to the sun now’ and the image of the woman sunbathing, in a bikini, with a cocktail, that the promotion included fares to destinations warm enough to sunbathe in swimwear during the promotional period,” the ASA said. “Because we understood this was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”
This is a very interesting finding, revealing that the ASA clearly believes that it needs to act on the basis that we’re all morons unfamiliar with the advertising industry’s hyperbole.
However, a comparison with an earlier finding is even more illuminating: during the autumn of 2009, I was one of 939 complainants to the ASA over the then Labour government’s ‘Bedtime Stories’ TV advertisement. For those who have forgotten it, this included a cartoon representation of a future world in which our childrens’ puppies and kittens would all drown thanks to the globally-warmed rising seas that Al Gore regularly prophesises from the comfort of his recently acquired beachfront property. It was a disgraceful piece of propaganda specifically aimed at frightening and brainwashing very young children with the climate religion. Most of the complaints centred on the perversion of the science or the unsuitability of the ‘horror’ medium given the target audience. Many, like mine, cited both.
The advertisement was not so much misleading as a series of outright lies: the notion of apocalyptic sea rise is not supported by the data – between 1900 and 2000, sea levels steadily rose approximately 18.5 cm or 1.85mm per year and this shows no sign of changing. We easily adapt to such rises which are undoubtedly natural and cyclical – consider the number of marine fossils found in cliffs way above current sea levels, for example. The ad also told us that “over 40% of the C02 was coming from ordinary every day things like keeping houses warm and driving cars”. Even if you are daft enough to believe that human emissions of CO2 are causing significant climate change, you must accept – as the ASA was obliged to do – the proven fact that our contribution is more in the order of 3.5%.
Nevertheless, as false and misleading as the advertisement was, the ASA declined to uphold the complaint.
It has been suggested that this decision may have been the result of the Chairman of the ASA, the Labour Party’s Lord Chris Smith, also being the Chair of the Environment Agency – which just happens to report to the Department for the Environment and Climate Change who funded and produced the ad (with our money, of course).