Only a few months after easyJet got away with using photos of David and Victoria Beckham in its advertisements, the cheap airflight specialists have escaped censure for their use of a photograph of Major Charles Ingram and his wife without their permission. The Ingrams were convicted in April this year of winning the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” TV quiz show's £1 million top prize by setting up an accomplice, Tecwen Whittock (IPKat 7, July), to guess the right answers and then transmit information to the Major by means of coded coughs. The Ingrams complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after easyJet ran a newspaper advertisement with the headline "Need a cheap getaway?" above a photograph of the couple and the wording "No Major fraud required". This, they said, was an invasion of their privacy and was “offensive and distressing" to them. EasyJet said the promotion was "one of a series of humorous topical advertisements, all using celebrities who had recently been in the public eye". They admitted they had not asked permission to use the photograph but said it was already in the public domain.

The ASA rejected the Ingrams’ complaint saying that, while companies were urged to get permission before they used an individual in an advert, they were not required to obtain it. What’s more, the advert "portrayed the complainants in a way that was consistent with the verdicts in their recent court case and not in an unfairly adverse way". Since the Ingrams had chosen to appear on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” and were convicted of trying to defraud the show, the advert could not be said to have caused further distress since it "had not unfairly portrayed them adversely or offensively and was consistent with the general media depiction of them".

The IPKat wonders why anyone bothers complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority. It’s not as if it has the power to make any order or grant any relief. At best, the offending advertiser is given a gentle rap over its well-padded knuckles. At worst, in cases such as this, all the embarrassments of the original advertisement are drawn again to the public’s attention when the ASA’s decision is made public. If however Ingram could persuade a court that he had lost the opportunity to earn endorsement income by virtue of a false apparent endorsement, he could have collected substantial damages, as racing driver Eddie Irvine did.

Anagram of Major Charles Ingram here
How to get on a game show here and here
… and how to be a winner here and here

EASYJET DO IT AGAIN EASYJET DO IT AGAIN Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 Rating: 5

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