Ryanair walks into storm with Iraqi information minister

LONDON - Ryanair has walked into a storm with its new advertising campaign featuring the infamous Iraqi information minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahaf, whom it has appearing as EasyJet's head of information claiming the airline has the lowest airfares.

In the ad, the former information minister is shown with bubbles coming out of his mouth saying "We're winning the war" and "We're beating the Americans", referring to his wild optimism as coalition forces entered Baghdad. The third caption says "EasyJet have the lowest fares". The poster advertises Ryanair's 1m free seat sale.

Another ad in the campaign describes EasyJet's lowest fares claim as "bullocks". Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary said: "We want to eliminate confusion in people's minds that EasyJet is a low-fares airline. It isn't."

The ad has already caused controversy, with EasyJet's real spokesman, Toby Nicol, hitting back at Ryanair's "deep insecurity" and the propriety of referring to the war in its advertising.

During the conflict in Iraq, Saeed al-Sahaf became known as Comical Ali for his failure to tell the truth. He has since been used by a number of companies in humorous ads. He also featured in a Daily Mirror cartoon claiming that the paper was set to beat The Sun.

In a statement Nicol said that EasyJet never claimed to have the cheapest fares available. "Flying with Ryanair is a geography lesson. They go to places you can't spell and have never heard of, and certainly don't bear any resemblance to the destination advertised. By the time you have paid for a taxi to take you to the city centre, it would probably have been cheaper to fly with British Airways."

Last week, EasyJet's advertising was under scrutiny after The Economist claimed that one of its ads resembled its famous "management trainee" spot a little too closely.

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