Paddy Power has had the dubious honour of becoming one of the few brands ever to bring the industry “into disrepute”, according to this week’s Advertising Standards Authority ruling, which also branded it way beyond “simply being in poor taste”.
But the probe – which followed a record 5,525 complaints as well an online petition of nearly 127,000 signatures – revealed it could have been even worse. The Sun on Sunday had already rejected one version which was deemed unsuitable for inclusion in the publication.
The press ad – featuring an image of Pistorius mocked up as an Academy Award statue – promoted a ”money back if he walks” offer for bets on the outcome of his trial. But Paddy Power was forced to pull it following what the ASA called ”an unprecedented number of complaints” within hours of publication.
In its defence, Paddy Power claimed as the ad made no reference to “Reeva Steenkamp, her death, violence or to any other such matter” the firm believed it was fair game. It also said the slot deliberately did not mention that Pistorious was a double amputee.
However, the ASA was unimpressed, ruling that the ad sought commercial advantage based on that trial and which made light of the sensitive issues involved.
Banning the ad for being “likely to cause serious and widespread offence”, the regulator added: “Given the content of the ad, and the prevailing circumstances at the time of its publication, we concluded that it brought advertising into disrepute.”
A Paddy Power spokesman said: “I wouldn’t say ‘no regrets’, but certainly we were surprised at the level of reaction we got. It was the highest number of complaints on record so I guess we got a record out of it.”
French Connection UK was the last major brand to be charged with bringing advertising into disrepute when it ran an outdoor campaign back in 2001 promoting its website, featuring the phrase “fcukinkybugger.com”.
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