The Oscar Pistorious trial has become the case of headaches for Paddy Power, even if the Irish bookmaker conceded that its advert offering “money off if he walks” away from killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was not meant to cause any offense to readers.
Still, it wasn’t enough for Paddy to get rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority after the ad became the most complained-about UK advert of all time, drawing a record 5,525 complaints from readers, many of whom believed that the ad trivialized the issues surrounding the murder trial. Protests from the ad event went as far as a petition on Change.org for Paddy to take the advert down and for the ASA to take the unusual step of ordering the ad’s immediate withdrawal pending an investigation.
Now, the ASA has ruled that the ad, which featured a face of Pistorius that was slapped over an image similar to an Oscar statuette with a text saying “It’s Oscar Time. Money back if he walks. We will refund all losing bets on the Oscar Pistorius trial if he is found not guilty”, brought advertising into disrepute.
While the regulator did acknowledge that the advert made no specific reference to “death” or “violence”, there are existing advertising rules that references to anyone who was dead should be taken with utmost respect because any misinterpretation would likely lead to the circumstances Paddy found itself in.
“We considered it would therefore have been reasonable to foresee that serious or widespread offence was likely to be caused by placing an ad that sought commercial advantage based on that trial and which made light of the sensitive issues involved,” the ASA said in a statement.
“Given the content of the ad, and the prevailing circumstances at the time of its publication, we concluded that it brought advertising into disrepute.”
As such, the ASA has ruled that Paddy get rid of the ad in its current form and issued an advise to the Irish bookmaker to ensure that it treats with utmost seriousness the nature of its future publicity stunts to avoid an incident like this from happening again.