Risk/reward: Regulation and the threat of negative publicity

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In 2009, Ryanair reached a voluntary agreement with regulators to make its advertising and pricing – particularly on its website – more transparent. That came after a referral by the ASA to the Office of Fair Trading resulted in criticism from the body, which enforces statute law on consumer protection and competition.

Given the speed with which online ads and promotions can be published, updated or withdrawn, it remains to be seen whether the ASA will end up chasing shadows of companies similarly intent on giving the regulator the run-around.

EasyJet UK general manager Paul Simmons maintains that the brand mostly complies with the rules, and is not concerned about its website being within the regulator’s reach. “Despite the odd run-in with the ASA, we always design our advertising messaging with the intent of being compliant with regulation, whatever the medium.”

However, Adam Perrin, head of brand at bookmaker Paddy Power, admits there are benefits to taking risks with advertising. “Positioning a brand on the very edge of regulation can be an effective advertising tool, and one we have deployed at Paddy Power,” he says. “But advertisers would be pretty negligent if they blew a budget on a campaign that will never see the light of day due to nothing more than ignorance.”

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