Ireland’s advertising watchdog has spanked betting operator Paddy Power for its campaign involving refugees trying to reach the UK.
In July, the Paddsters drove a semi-trailer truck to the French port of Calais, where camps have sprung up to accommodate the hordes of migrants fleeing conflict zones in search of a better life, leading to a fierce debate in the UK as to how to keep them out.
The truck’s sides were painted Paddy green and featured photos of sports stars Andy Murray (born in Scotland), Raheem Sterling (Jamaica), Mo Farah (Somalia), Manu Tuilagi (Samoa) and Eoin Morgan (Ireland), while the accompanying text proclaimed: “Immigrants, jump in the back! (but only if you’re good at sport)”
The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) received complaints accusing the ad of being in poor taste, offensive, racist, “making a joke out of human tragedy” and potentially inflaming negative attitudes toward immigrants.
Paddy defended its “edgy, humorous and engaging” ad, which was heavily promoted via its social media channels, saying they’d intended no offence or insult to immigrants. Paddy said the ad was a “satirical joke,” the main point of which was “poking fun at ‘British’ sporting talent.” Paddy insisted that the ad “had not in any way incited racial hatred.”
Paddy further claimed that the “vast majority” of the audience who viewed the ad on Twitter and Facebook were Paddy customers who “could reasonably be construed as being fans of their services and the mischief element of their marketing campaigns.”
The ASAI conceded that Paddy’s customers were accustomed to the company’s irreverent marketing approach but upheld the complaints on the grounds that it is “inappropriate for advertisers to refer to vulnerable groups, in a manner that highlighted their current high profile difficulties, in marketing communications merely to attract attention.” The ASAI ordered Paddy to shelve the ad.