A TV ad for Ryanair, seen on 5 October 2016, featured a voice-over that stated “Book now from just £19.99. Ryanair. Low fares. Made simple”. On-screen text stated “Fly from £19.99”. Small on-screen text throughout the ad stated “Fares one way. Book by 10/11/16. Travel by 25/03/17”. Larger text stating “Summer 2017 on sale now” appeared on screen at the end of the ad.
The complainant, who had understood that the £19.99 offer applied to flights for summer 2017, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Ryanair Ltd stated that the primary message of the ad was a £19.99 seat promotion for travel until 25 March 2017. They believed that this was clearly communicated by the disclaimer displayed on the screen throughout the ad, which met BCAP’s guide on duration of hold and size for superimposed text. They said “Summer 2017 on sale now” was a subsidiary message that appeared separately at the end of the ad. The intention of that text was to communicate that tickets for summer 2017 had now gone on sale, that is, that they were available to purchase at the time the ad appeared. Ryanair stated that the primary message of the ad took up 70% of the airtime and the actors in the ad were dressed in winter clothes and shown flying to a winter destination. They believed that the ad made a distinction between the two messages, making clear that the £19.99 promotion did not apply to seats for summer 2017, and that it was therefore not misleading.
Clearcast said the ad conveyed two clear messages: a sales message about winter flights including a qualification stating when it was valid until, and a separate information message stating that summer flights for 2017 were now available. They said the on-screen text conveying the second message was grammatically correct, stating “on sale”, not “in the sale”, and therefore they did not believe that the ad was misleading.
The ASA noted that “Summer 2017 on sale now” could be understood as meaning that tickets for summer 2017 were now available to buy, but considered that the wording was ambiguous and could also be interpreted as meaning that the summer flights were “on sale”, that is, part of the sales promotion. Given that the majority of the ad related to a sales promotion, we considered that viewers would likely understand “Summer 2017 on sale now” as having the latter meaning, and that flights for summer 2017 were available from £19.99. While we noted that the £19.99 offer was qualified by small text stating the start and end dates for the promotion, we considered that, given the conjunction of the offer with the claim “Summer 2017 on sale now”, the qualification was not sufficiently prominent to correct the overall impression that summer 2017 flights were included in the sale. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.10 3.10 Advertisements must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification) and 3.18 3.18 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product or service depicted in the advertisement. (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Ryanair to ensure that their advertising made clear which claims the qualifications applied to in order to avoid giving a misleading impression to consumers.