Authority says Paddy Power Pistorius ad breaks code

Tuesday 22 April 2014 15.02
Oscar Pistorius' trial continues in South Africa
Oscar Pistorius' trial continues in South Africa

Sixty five complaints against bookmakers Paddy Power have been upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The complaints were made about a controversial Oscar Pistorius ad, which featured an image of an Oscar statuette, with the face of athlete Oscar Pistorius.

The ads were placed online and in The Sunday Independent and The Sunday World on Sunday 2nd March ahead of the athlete's murder trial and the Cheltenham races.

The ad's text was "It's Oscar Time", "Money back if he walks" and "We will refund all losing bets on the Oscar Pistorius trial if he is found not guilty".

The majority of the complaints said the ad was offensive as it trivialised domestic violence and murder, undermined justice, the seriousness of a criminal act and was sexist.

Those who complained also said the reference to 'if he walks' was offensive to the disabled as it was a reference to the fact that Mr Pistorious was a double amputee.

In a statement the authority said it can only deal with complaints about the marketing communications. It said: "The fact that a product or service is considered offensive is not a matter that can be considered under the Code."

In its defence Paddy Power said it sees betting as entertainment and actively engages with customers through its "mischievous and award-winning approach" to marketing.

The company said its marketing campaigns "may push the boundaries on occasion", but that they were committed to ensuring that their advertising campaigns "were on the right side of the Code".

The advertisers also told the authority that while they had not taken specific Irish law advice they were entirely comfortable that there was nothing unlawful in their offering a market in Ireland on the outcome of a trial in South Africa.

Paddy Power rejected the claim that the ad had "gravely" offended anyone, or caused "widespread" offence, on the grounds that it trivialised murder, death or violence. They said that there was no reference to murder, death or violence, or indeed to any dead person, in the ad.

Paddy Power said that reaction to the ad had been "blown out of all sense of proportion" and that it was "utterly absurd" that complaints would be made that the ad was somehow sexist or biased against women.

Paddy Power also rejected any claim that the ad caused "grave" or "widespread" offence on the grounds of having made light of disability. They did not deny that an element of adult humour was contained within the reference to "if he walks".

Having considered the detail of the complaints and the response from the advertiser, the ASAI's Complaints Committee said that the advertising was in breach of the provisions of sections 2.15, 2.16 and 2.19 of the Code.

The authority said the ad should not be used again in any media and reminded the advertiser that depending on the media selected, advertising can be seen by large sections of the population including many who do not appreciate or accept the level to which they claim to "push the boundaries" in some campaigns.