March 20, 2014

Paddy Power Oscar Pistorius ‘money back if he walks’ ad broke rules and brought UK advertising into disrepute, ASA finds

A Paddy Power advert that offered a “money back if he walks” guarantee for betting on the Oscar Pistorius murder trial broke rules and brought the UK’s advertising industry into disrepute, the regulator has found.

In a ruling issued today against the bookmaker, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the ad had amassed 5,525 complaints – a record in Britain.

The ASA had already ordered Paddy Power to withdraw the ad pending the investigation, after complainants said it trivialised domestic violence towards women and made fun of double amputee Pistorius’ disability.

The regulator ruled that those who saw the advert would interpret it as a reference to someone who had died and to the Paralympic athlete as a double amputee, the BBC reported

“Given the content of the ad, and the prevailing circumstances at the time of its publication, we concluded that it brought advertising into disrepute,” it said.

Paddy Power appeared aware at the time the advert was published, in the Sun on Sunday newspaper on 2 March, that it would prove controversial.

The company also offered odds on the outcome of the murder trial of 7/4 for a guilty verdict and 2/5 for not guilty, in an offer branded “vile” and “disgusting” by social media users.

Writing in a blog post at the time, the firm said: “Global media attention, bar-stool conversation and pillow talk will shift from the Oscars on Sunday night to Oscar on Monday when the Blade Runner straps on his prosthetic limbs for the long walk to the high court.

“As an international media circus descends on South Africa, Paddy Power's marketing department has entered the fray.”

Today the company defended the reference to Pistorius’ disability on the grounds that it was “subtle”, and a spokesperson told the BBC: “It was one ad in one newspaper on one day. I don't think there's an apology coming - criticise us for bad taste, which is fine.”

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