Complaints upheld over Paddy Power Pistorius ad

Bookmaker said about 10 individuals had driven an agenda to generate complaints against advert

The Advertising Standards Authority received 65 complaints about the adverts which appeared in two newspapers on Sunday March 2nd. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA

The Advertising Standards Authority received 65 complaints about the adverts which appeared in two newspapers on Sunday March 2nd. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA

Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 17:40

Complaints over a controversial Paddy Power advert referencing the Oscar Pistorius trial have been upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI).

The authority received 65 complaints about the adverts which appeared in two newspapers on Sunday March 2nd, a day ahead of the start of Mr Pistorius’s murder trial in South Africa.

Mr Pistorius is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013 at his home in Pretoria.

The adverts featured an image of an Oscar statuette bearing the face of Mr Pistorius, a double-amputee athlete, with the accompanying text “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 complaints centred on three grounds: that the ad was offensive as it trivialised domestic violence and murder and undermined justice and the seriousness of a criminal act; that it was offensive to victims, their families and women; and that the term “if he walks” was offensive to the disabled.

In its response Paddy Power said the ad “was a reflection of water-cooler conversations around the globe rather than a commentary in any manner whatsoever on violence or death”.

The advertiser said the ad had not made any express reference to Ms Steenkamp, her death, to murder or violence, or to any other such matter that the advertiser reasonably believed might have overstepped the mark or caused grave or widespread offence.

It said the term “if he walks” was synonymous with court cases and that the term “strikes the right balance between an adult-themed, relevant and inoffensive double-entendre without crossing the line into being gravely offensive or likely to cause widespread offence”.

Paddy Power said the campaign had been “blown out of all sense of proportion” adding that the company’s own research on social media had concluded that a group of about 10 individuals had singlehandedly driven an agenda to generate complaints about it.

In its finding the ASAI’s complaints committee accepted that there was no direct reference to Ms Steencamp but said that, by implication, the outcome of the bets clearly related to the subject matter of the trial and the evidence being presented.

The committee said the reference to “It’s Oscar Time” “Money back if he walks” could be seen to trivialise the difficulties associated with disability including amputees or those with other mobility problems.

It ordered that the advertisement should not be used again in any media.