Ryanair’s first ever TV ad campaign offers plenty of pointers for retailers - the unpopular airline is on a mission to change its image.

Everybody has an opinion about Ryanair, the world’s least loved airline. Last year it was rated bottom of 100 of the biggest UK brands for customer service by Which? magazine. It was the sort of criticism that Ryanair and its CEO Michael O’Leary in particular have spent years swatting away. Bothered? Not us!

Well, times have changed and Ryanair is showing signs that it is moving with them. Its first UK TV advertising is part of a thrust to shift negative perceptions of what the brand stands for. 

The ads focus on customer service changes that Ryanair has brought in, namely a new, easier to use website, allocated seating, and a second free cabin bag. The spots, backed by the song Destination Anywhere by the Marvelettes, feature a narrator anticipating the sorts of problems associated with the old Ryanair, which are dispelled by the great service of the new.

It’s a brave and ballsy move from the company’s new marketing director Kenny Jacobs who has said that Ryanair is not afraid to make fun of itself. After years of unapologetically ‘poor’ service Ryanair is now making a new customer promise summed up in the slogan ‘Low fares. Made simple’. Previously the brand has been all about low prices and customers who have complained about service have had to lump it.

Brands need to act on consumer criticism and Ryanair is adopting a more human image and demonstrating that it is not too proud to change. It has tried to sum up this change in an easily understood customer promise the way that successful retailers have – think of John Lewis’s ‘never knowingly undersold’.

‘No frills’ doesn’t have to be synonymous with no or low quality – discounters in the grocery sector have proved this. Low prices can accompany an easy shopping experience and ease is a key driver of brand loyalty. Loyalty needs to be earned, and if you want to keep people coming back, you need to provide a positive experience.

Ultimately it’s all about delivery. It is all very well saying you want to do better, but customer promises need to be kept, so for Ryanair this is just the beginning. Otherwise its customers might be better off doing what The Marvelettes really did – the lyrics of the song describe how they actually caught the train.

Matt Pye is chief operating officer at advertising and marketing agency Cheil UK