Author
Simon Jupp

Simon Jupp

Senior associate

Read More
Author
Simon Jupp

Simon Jupp

Senior associate

Read More

16 February 2021

COVID-19 and filters – ASA decisions highlight risks of referring to COVID-19 and of using filters in adverts

  • Quick read

We predicted 2021 was going to be a busy year for advertising and that's turning out to be the case. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has issued a spate of new rulings this year already. Below, we discuss two recent rulings which have caught our eye.

Ryanair "jab and go" ad banned

Two TV ads for Ryanair have been banned by the ASA for misleading consumers about the impact of COVID-19 vaccinations on the ability to go on holiday in 2021 and for being socially irresponsible.

The two ads were published in December 2020 and stated that "VACCINES ARE COMING" and that viewers "could jab and go!". Footage showed young people enjoying their holiday destinations.

  • The ASA said that consumers would understand the key message of the Ryanair ads to be that being vaccinated against COVID-19 would allow them to go on holiday in Easter/summer 2021 without restrictions. The context was important and they pointed to factors such as the imagery of the syringe and vaccine vial, the claims "vaccines are coming" and "you could jab and go", and the imagery showing people close together jumping into a pool. At a time when consumers were nervous about booking holidays, there was a clear link in the ads between the vaccine rollout and the Easter/summer holidays in 2021 and this was intended to provide reassurance to people that they would be vaccinated in time for a holiday. This was held to be misleading and a breach of the BCAP Code.
  • While the ASA acknowledged that some viewers had found the ads distasteful, it concluded that the ads did not trivialise the wider impacts of the pandemic and were unlikely to cause serious or widespread harm.
  • The ASA considered the ads encouraged people to behave irresponsibly by prompting those who are not yet eligible for a vaccine to try to get one at a time when the health services were under particular strain. They concluded this was irresponsible and breached the BCAP Code.

The ASA has taken a strict approach when it comes to ads which make any reference to the pandemic. It considers that consumers can easily be confused or uncertain about the situation concerning the pandemic and how it might develop in 2021. Ads must therefore take care not to mislead consumers or do anything which might be considered to take advantage or exploit the uncertainty of the pandemic.

In particular, advertisers should be cautious when linking developments in the UK to specific timeframes, particularly if these are linked to consumer purchasing decisions. It is vital that advertisers are aware of the relevant government and scientific rules and guidelines on COVID-19 and how these might affect their ads.

Use of filters on social media ads

The ASA has published rulings against two influencer ads for tanning products where filters had been used which artificially altered the appearance of the persons featured.

The first concerned reposted Instagram stories on the Skinny Tan Instagram account featuring influencer Elly Norris, with images of her face and the text captions "So impressed with how that went on, honestly like no other fake tan I've ever put on" and "haven't done my make up yet, but absolutely obsessed with the @skinnytanhq conconut serum I used last night". 

The second concerned an Instagram story by influencer Cinzia Baylis-Zullo, promoting Tanalogist Tan, which included a video of her demonstrating how to apply the product.

Both ads showed the influencers talking about the tanning products and each used a filter which appeared to manipulate the colour of their skin and overall complexion. The ASA ruled that both ads breached the Cap Code because the filters used by the influencers misleadingly exaggerated the tanning effects the products were capable of achieving.

While the use of filters in ads is not inherently problematic, advertisers of cosmetic products need to take particular care not to mislead consumers about the product advertised. In both these cases, the products conveyed tanning effects and the applications of the Instagram filters were directly relevant to the claimed performance of the products.

The same principles should also be applied to all influencer ads, not just those for cosmetics. Marketers must not misleadingly exaggerate the effect a product is capable of achieving. The overall impression and final context of ads is important, and any applied filters must not mislead potential customers as to the efficacy of the product or service.

Find out more

To discuss any of the issues raised in this article in more detail, please reach out to a member of our Brands & Advertising team.

Call To Action Arrow Image

Latest insights in your inbox

Subscribe to newsletters on topics relevant to you.

Subscribe
Subscribe

Related Insights

Multi Coloured Computer Wafer Macrophotography
Technology, media & communications

Advertising the future: predictions for 2021

4 December 2020
Briefing

by Simon Jupp

Click here to find out more
Laptop
Fashion & luxury

Fashion & Luxury Market Update - issue 439

29 July 2020
QUICK-READ

by multiple authors

Click here to find out more
Details of vibrant yellow ladies handbag with silver coloured metal clasp on flap
Fashion & luxury

Fashion & Luxury Market Update - issue 438

22 July 2020
QUICK READ

by multiple authors

Click here to find out more