The bad boy of British advertising, Paddy Power, appears to have mended its ways after seeing an ad waived through by the regulator even though it even featured the F-word.
Timed to coincide with the Fifa presidential elections in May this year, the ad ran in a number of national newspapers promoting the odds on the leading contestants. However, it just so happened to be in the same week that a number of officials were arrested on charges of bribery and corruption.
Created by RPM and Paddy Power’s in-house team, it showed boss Sepp Blatter holding up a sign with the word, “me”, next to the odds for the election, but the headline was not quite so kind, urging Blatter to “f**k off already”.
One Guardian reader took umbrage, and challenged whether the use of the word “f**k” was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, sparking an Advertising Standards Authority investigation.
In its defence Paddy Power said the ad was tongue-in-cheek and intended to generate interest and reflect public sentiment over the Fifa corruption scandal in a humorous and irreverent way.
Even the The Guardian – which rarely shies from publishing expletives – said it had considered it was “highly unlikely” readers would be offended.
Clearing the ad, the ASA said: “We considered that readers were likely to understand that the ad was intended to be a light-hearted comment on the ongoing allegations of corruption within Fifa, and in particular the controversy surrounding Sepp Blatter’s tenure as Fifa president.”
Despite recent controversies, Paddy Power has actually escaped censure on a number of occasions.
Its “mass debater” ad, published ahead of the TV debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg was also given the thumbs up, despite claims its allusions to masturbation were offensive.
Meanwhile, a 2012 radio commercial, which encouraged gamblers to “chuck us a kidney” in return for decent odds on the Masters golf tournament, was also cleared, despite nearly 30 complaints.
And in 2010, it launched an TV spot showing a cat being kicked into a tree by a blind footballer. Despite being the most complained-about ad of the year, it too was given the green light.
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