Lufthansa is in trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which is the UK’s regulator for advertising. This is an interesting case…
In this post:
The ad that got Lufthansa in trouble
The ASA takes issue with a Lufthansa advertisement that was published in June 2022, which shows an imagine of the front of an Airbus A350 inflight. The bottom half of the plane is represented by an image of the earth from space. The ad includes the following text:
“LUFTHANSA GROUP, CONNECTING THE WORLD. PROTECTING ITS FUTURE. #MakeChangeFly”
The ASA has decided that this ad violates the UK’s advertising laws. The ASA is arguing that this ad gives consumers a misleading impression of the environmental impact of flying, and is demanding that Lufthansa in the future ensure that the basis of environmental claims is made clear, and doesn’t give misleading impressions. The ASA argues that:
- Laws in the UK require that absolute environmental claims be supported by a high level of substantiation, and that’s not the case here; so the disagreement primarily comes down to whether Lufthansa was making an absolute claim
- The claim “protecting its future” was likely to be interpreted by consumers as an environmental reference to how Lufthansa’s approach to aviation was protecting the future of the world, given that the text was superimposed on a picture of the globe
- Lufthansa’s claims about the campaign include aspirations to become carbon neutral by 2050 and to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030, though the campaign isn’t qualified with this information
- Consumers would believe that Lufthansa has already taken significant mitigating steps to ensure that the net environmental impact of its business was not harmful, rather than having plans to do so in the future
Lufthansa disagrees with the ASA, and argues:
- The ad had a hyperlink to the website makechangefly.com, which details the carrier’s initiative
- The campaign is intended to address the need to reduce the impact of flying on the environment and make consumers aware of how Lufthansa is achieving that
- The tagline is open to interpretation, and in conjunction with the imagery shouldn’t be understood as an absolute promise about the impact of flying on the environment
- “Connecting the world” isn’t an absolute claim, and therefore it’s inconsistent to conclude that “protecting its future” is an absolute claim
- The ad contained no absolute statements suggesting that flying has no impact on the environmnet
Despite Lufthansa’s retort, the ASA has upheld its decision.
My take on this case against Lufthansa
I’m not sure where exactly I stand on this particular case:
- This ultimately comes down to whether Lufthansa was making an absolute claim or not, and I suppose that comes down to how literally one interprets things; if someone tells me they had a ton of fun doing something, I don’t assume that it necessarily involved 2,240 pounds, but maybe that’s just me
- Ridiculous green claims have become the norm across so many industries, so I’m not even fazed by these kinds of claims anymore; maybe that’s all the more reason regulators should take more action
- When you look at the ad in isolation, it is kind of ridiculous; airlines perform a vital service and are reducing their environmental impact over time by getting more fuel efficient aircraft, but to argue that airlines are “protecting [the] future” is a bit much
I will say that if there is something regulators are going to go after with Lufthansa, I think the carrier’s recently introduced green fares are a much better place to start. These fares are significantly more expensive than other fares, and even include bonus miles, yet Lufthansa makes no promise about how much of the revenue premium is actually going toward environmental projects. To me that’s much more concerning.
Lufthansa is in trouble with UK regulators over a recent ad about the carrier’s environmental efforts. UK regulations require that environmental claims be supported by a high level of substantiation, and regulators found that this wasn’t the case with Lufthansa’s campaign.
What do you make of the ASA’s ruling on Lufthansa’s ad campaign?