Warning: This post was published more than 11 years ago.
I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!
But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:
- My views might have changed in the 11 years since I wrote this post.
- This post might use language in ways which I would now consider inappropriate or offensive.
- Factual information might be outdated.
- Links might be broken; embedded material might not appear properly.
Many thanks for your understanding.
As many of my UK readers will have seen, Ryanair has been advertising flights using slogans based around the London bombings:
The full-page advertisements, which appeared in national newspapers yesterday, were headed “London fights back” and included a photograph of Winston Churchill in RAF uniform, smoking a cigar and giving the victory sign.
A speech bubble contains a three-line parody of one of his most famous speeches made in June 1940: “We shall fly them to the beaches, we shall fly them to the hills, we shall fly them to London!”
It is now refusing to withdraw these advertisements, despite over one hundred complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. As such, it’s getting itself lots of free coverage and free advertising of the offer through the various reports about it in newspapers. Since people generally go for price over principles, it’ll probably do very well. And just in case the ads aren’t enough to get newspaper columns wound up, they defend the ads thusly, refusing to accept that the advertising provides any kind of marketing boost to the company:
Peter Sherrard, head of communications for Ryanair, which is based in Dublin, defended the advertisements as an attempt “to stand by the people of London after these terrible terrorist atrocities.
“We are trying to ensure that the terrorists don’t succeed in paralysing people with fear, which is their primary objective, and that people continue to lead their lives as normal and continue to fly.”
Ryanair should be making a united stance with other major operators to ensure that visitors return to London.
Clearly, as long as this strategy of antagonism works and provides a profit to companies, it isn’t going to stop. But why do newspapers continue to play into their hands, by initially printing the clearly offensive ads, and then by reporting the complaints about them – often whilst still running them? Do they not realise that it is far more damaging to their newspaper than to the advertiser? After all, the companies who run these ads normally attract through price rather than reputation, but the newspaper still has to convince its readership that it is principled, despite effectively supporting the advertiser’s unprincipled campaign.
This practice is bad for the newspaper business, and until editors begin to realise this, they are effectively going to continue to lose sales. Who needs to buy reams of advertising when the ‘horrified’ copy does it for them?
Away from the world of advertising, it’s worth noting that many of the news networks and newspapers took questionable editorial decisions in their reportage of the London bombings. It is at times like these when the BBC and The Guardian – though more particularly the latter, as the former has more of a statuary duty – show themselves to be genuinely excellent news sources, and in true touch with their readers and viewers. They are not afraid to enter a dialogue with their readers, explaining their decisions, and admitting their mistakes. To do this on such a big news occasions, when controversy is flying, is admirable, but not difficult. To do so regularly, often responding to complaints and queries by just a couple of their audience, is truly extraordinary, and as much as other newspapers (most notably The Independent) have tried to copy it, they’re not nearly as candid and honest. It is rare for rivals, particularly of the BBC, to issue a correction (bombs at seven tube stations and on three buses?), and still more rare to offer an apology. For the BBC to offer a weekly slot on it’s rolling news channel to explain its decisions and accept its faults is brave, and wins it respect.
Will Ryanair ever apologise for it’s offensive advertisements? Yes, but only once the complaints have been featured everywhere, so that the apology can then make a second feature, and continue it’s free advertising. I do hope that newspapers wake up to this soon – perhaps I should write and complain…