Paddy Power has been forced to rip down its Oscar Pistorious ad – offering refunds if the sprinter walks free – following a public outcry which has seen more than 5,200 complaints to the ad watchdog and 125,000 signatures on an online petition.
The Advertising Standards Authority said it has ordered the bookmaker to withdraw the ad with immediate effect following what it called ”an unprecedented number of complaints”.
The regulator has the power to demand that ads are pulled under the Advertising Code, pending the outcome of an investigation.
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, which started this week.
Paddy Power is no stranger to controversy but its latest effort has won the dubious honour of being the most complained about ad in history. The 5,200 complaints to date dwarf the 1,671 for a 2005 ad for KFC that featured call centre workers talking with their mouths full of chicken.
Meanwhile, a change.org petition calling for the ad to be banned has so far received 124,585 signatures. It is also demanding that Paddy Power donates any profits to a women’s charity fighting violence against women.
The ad will now be invesigated by the ASA to determine whether it is offensive for “trivialising the issues surrounding a murder trial, the death of a woman and disability” and “bringing the good reputation of advertising generally into dispute”.
Paddy Power has been unrepentant. A spokesman said: “We stand by our decision to run this betting market and publicise it to punters. Given the rolling coverage of this trial, everyone will be openly talking about it and speculating on the verdict and our betting offer is simply a reflection of that debate.”
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