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Ryanair adverts attacking Brown condemned by ASA 18.07.07

Ryanair, dubbed by Labour’s Ian Pearson as the “irresponsible face of capitalism”, has finally had their advertising rapped by the ASA following a complaint from Airport Watch. The campaign, created in-house by Ryanair’s marketing department attached Gordon Brown as a thief, and rubbished claims about aircraft CO2 emissions.

The advertising campaign at the centre of the controversy involved four national press creatives: The first ad was headlined "WELCOME TO BRITAIN THIS IS A STICK UP!" and showed a picture of Gordon Brown’s head on a small cartoon cowboy’s body. Text stated "’GREEDY GORDON’ DOUBLES APD TO £10 ON 1ST FEB. UK TOURISTS WILL PAY £1 BILLION MORE IN TAXES. THESE TAXES DAMAGE BRITISH TOURISM".

A second ad showed a picture of Gordon Brown’s head on a small cartoon robber’s body; he was holding a bag with "£1BN SWAG BAG" written on it. The ad was headlined "THE GREAT PLANE ROBBER and text stated "GORDON BROWN HAS DOUBLED APD TAX ON PASSENGERS TO £10. HE CLAIMS THIS IS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT - THIS CLAIM IS RUBBISH. AVIATION ACCOUNTS FOR JUST 2% OF CO2 EMISSIONS. THIS YEAR GREEDY GORDON WILL NICK £1BN FROM PASSENGERS".

A third ad, which appeared in The Daily Telegraph and The Times, and featured the same text as ad (b), was headlined "GREEDY GORDON’S SHOCK CONFESSION!". It showed a picture of Gordon Brown shaking hands with the Pope; text in a speech bubble from Gordon Brown stated "THIS YEAR I’LL NICK £1BN FROM TOURISTS" and text in a speech bubble from the Pope stated "EVEN I CAN’T ABSOLVE YOU OF THAT SIN".

A fourth ad was headlined "GREEDY GORDON WINS OSCAR ... FOR BEST STICK UP" and showed a picture of Gordon Brown’s head on a small cartoon body holding an Oscar. Text stated "BIG BUDGET MAKE BELIEVE AT THE TAXPAYER’S EXPENSE, £1BN AIR PASSENGER TAX DECEPTION USING THE FLIMSIEST OF PRETENCES, EXTRAORDINARY SPECIAL EFFECTS - £1BN JUST DISAPPEARS INTO GREEDY GORDON’S POCKETS, THOSE HOLIDAY MAKERS WERE REALLY FLEECED - NOT A PENNY SPENT ON THE ENVIRONMENT, AVIATION ACCOUNTS FOR JUST 2% OF CO2 EMISSIONS AND YET HE PULLED IT OFF - UNBELIEVEABLE!"

A complaint had been made by AirportWatch, the umbrella organisation for groups opposed to airport expansion, saying that Ryanair had implied in their adverts that aviation only accounted for 2% of UK emissions. The Government figure, confirmed recently by Aviation Minister Gillian Merron, is that aviation accounts for around 6% of UK CO2 emissions and, if the extra damage at high altitude is included, 13% of UK climate change damage. The 2% figure used by Ryanair refers to aviation’s contribution to global emissions.

The ASA found that “many of the complainants considered the 2% claim was misleading because the Chancellor’s Pre-Budget report had stated ‘The aviation sector currently accounts for around 5.5 per cent of the UK’s total carbon dioxide output’… we considered that in the context of an ad specifically about a UK tax initiative, and which specifically referred to "UK tourists", readers could interpret the 2% figure as a reference to UK CO2 emissions, not global emissions. We also considered that most readers would be likely to assume that the figure included both domestic and international flights from the UK. “

The ASA however while upholding the complaint has hardly gone out of its way to penalize Ryainair for fooling with the figures, “We told Ryanair not to repeat the claims "Aviation accounts for just 2% of CO2 emissions" and "not a penny spent on the environment" in their ads.” Hardly the stuff to make Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, quake in his boots. Ryanair in typical robust fashion have said they will defy the ASA and continue to use the 2% figure.

For Airport Watch the ASA ruling is not just a slap in the face for Ryanair but a blow for IATA, the international trade body for the airlines, which recently encouraged all airlines to use advertisements featuring the same statement[2] and which tried to back up Ryanair in its fight with the ASA.

John Stewart, chairman of Airport Watch, said: “It is disgraceful that the airlines are trying to mislead the public on a life-or-death issue like climate change. They are behaving like the tobacco industry did in the past. We welcome the stance taken by the ASA. Hopefully even Michael O’Leary will now think twice before shouting his mouth off”

Brendon Sewill, chairman of the aviation economics group of Airport Watch, who also personally contacted ASA, explains: “The figure of 2% refers to the global situation and merely reflects the fact that few people in countries such as China or India fly. It is irrelevant to whether UK air travel should be taxed. UK aviation emissions are growing so rapidly that some experts predict that by 2050 they will reach 100% of all the carbon the UK can safely emit. The recently announced campaign by the airlines to clean up their image as the fastest growing contributor to climate change has received a severe blow.”

Sorry but I had to add this You Tube Sketch, I loved it

Peter Shield

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