Paddy Power has left many in the marketing community cringing with embarrassment after revealing that its controversial polar bear graffiti stunt – which had Campaign magazine chomping at the bit in outrage – is actually a Greenpeace-backed initiative designed to raise awareness of the plight of Russian bears.
Earlier this week, the mischievous Irish bookmaker leaked “live” footage of a Russian polar bear being emblazoned with an England flag, on a cover wrap in The Metro under the strapline “England ‘til I dye”.
Cue much gnashing of teeth, with Atomic London creative partner Dave Henderson writing in Campaign: “This latest work doesn’t just cross the line of what’s decent in advertising, it clumsily barges through basic human decency and I hope some people are hanging their heads in shame this morning.”
However, the only person who is hanging his head is Henderson – and the publication which ran his outrage – after Paddy Power took over The Metro newspaper again this morning to reveal the stunt was in fact orchestrated to draw attention to the plight of the polar bear in the Russian Arctic.
The new ad states: “Please fur-give us. Our footage of a spray-painted polar bear wasn’t real. But the animal’s plight very much is. Our footage caused social media to meltdown almost as quickly as the polar bear’s home in the Russian Arctic. And while the bear’s habitat is reduced massively in size each year, with scientists crying out for information and access to the region, Putin turns a blind eye because of big business and oil.
“We can’t bear it any more so Paddy Power has teamed up with Polar Bears International to fund their first Russian polar bear research programme. Yes, We’re putting our big furry pals front and centre, because while the England team can build for the future, the polar bear is skating on thin ice.”
Speaking to The Drum, which will no doubt be enjoying getting one over on its rival trade rag, Paddy Power head of major brand activations Paul Mallon said: “My job is about not preaching to the converted but trying to get Paddy Power as a brand out of our sector. After the World Cup we’ll know whether this campaign was worth it, but I’m really proud of this, and how we’ve worked for several months with Polar Bears International, dozens of PP staff (from cyber threat departments to senior counsels) and the Pitch Marketing Group who came to us with the idea.”
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