Ryanair’s marketing strategy was never complicated. Eye-popping bright yellow and blue, scratchcards, cheesy bugles and incongruous use of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, girls in bikinis, Michael O’Leary gurning, insulting politicians, charging for the use of oxygen masks…
Not for the first time, the low-cost airline has found itself in trouble with advertising authorities. The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority agreed with complainants that the calendar girls campaign, featuring scantily clad air hostesses, was sexist and demeaning.
The body said, “We also considered that most readers would interpret these images, in conjunction with the text ‘RED HOT FARES & CREW!!!’ and the names of the women, as linking female cabin crew with sexually suggestive behaviour.”
The company run a calendar every year, with proceeds going to charity, featuring their best-looking (bikini-clad) cabin crew faffing around near aeroplanes. The girls from the calendar were used in the ads, killing two birds with one stone, as the ever-economical Michael O’Leary no doubt thought.
Linking female cabin crew with sexually suggestive behaviour? Well, that would be a first. The whole concept of flying has been sexualised since day one. (In fact, Freud believed dreaming of flying was synonmous with sex, but then, everything was with him). There’s the mile high club. And apparently, sex with a flight attendant is number 4 on men’s five most common fantasies. Pan Am made a whole series out of it. The glory days of flight are rapt for fantasies of all sorts, but the likes of Ryanair have killed any glamour associated with being shot across the sky in a metal tube stone dead.
So should women be up in arms about Ryanair’s sexism? Well, yes, the girls concerned were objectified. Of course, they consented to the use of their image. They may have felt empowered. Whole books and college courses have been devoted to the rights and wrongs of this topic, and here is neither the time nor the place.
It’s futile to take anything Michael O’Leary says or does seriously. He is probably one of Ireland’s most outspoken public figures. He says exactly what he wants and he doesn’t care if it’s not PC. Even if you disagree with a lot of he says, it’s hard not to admire someone who simply doesn’t give a sh*t.
But he’s also smart. He knows that anything he says is free publicity for him and his airline. Michael O’Leary doesn’t care that yet another ad has gotten them in trouble- he knows that Ryanair are back in the news. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, after all.
Sexism? Of course. And, I, for one, am angry. When, oh when, are they going do a “Pilots of Ryanair” calendar?
This article appeared on Studenty.me on February 15 2012.