Paddy Power’s Pistorius ad pulled after record complaints
Advertising Standards Authority receives over 5,000 complaints about ad offering odds on trial
Part of Paddy Power’s ad featuring a mock-up of Oscar Pistorius as an Academy Award.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has received 5,200 complaints so far about the newspaper ad and described this as an “unprecedented number of complaints”.
The ad shows a photograph of Pistorius superimposed on a statue of an Oscar award. Next to it, the ad states “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.”
The wave of complaints has in part been fuelled by an online petition on Change.org which has attracted more than 122,000 signatures.
The advertising campaign was timed for the start of the trial of the Olympic and Paralympic star Pistoriusl who is charged with murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, at his suburban Pretoria home on Valentine’s Day last year.
The ASA said it is investigating complaints that Paddy Power had been “trivialising the issues surrounding a murder trial, the death of a woman and disability”.
It also suggested the Pistorius ad may be bringing the “good reputation of advertising generally into dispute”.
In a statement chairman Lord Smith said the ASA had taken the “unusual step of directing the advertiser to withdraw the ad from circulation, pending the outcome of the investigation.
“In exceptional circumstances ASA procedures under the Advertising Code allow us to take interim action and have ads amended or withdrawn pending investigation.”
The ASA warned that continuing to display the advertisement may be “seriously prejudicial to the general public on the ground of the likely further serious and/or widespread offence it may cause.
“We are also concerned that the good reputation of the advertising industry may be further damaged by continued publication of this ad.”
It said it had no remit to have the ad withdrawn from the Paddy Power website as it is Irish-based.
The ASA said Paddy Power has agreed to withdraw the advertisement from newspapers in the UK.
In Ireland some 50 complaints have been received about the ad by the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI), the Irish equivalent of the ASA.
ASAI spokeswoman Orla Twomey said they are examining the complaints with a view to getting a response from Paddy Power.
The ASAI has a voluntary code and if found guilty of a breach, Paddy Power will have to withdraw the advertisement.
Paddy Power chief executive Patrick Kennedy said the company was justified in running the bet because it was the “most talked about and reported story of the year. This is about the trial and not about the murder.”
He said it was not Paddy Power’s intention to withdraw the advertisement in Ireland.
The father of murdered teenager Nicola Furlong said he was outraged the company’s view that it was justified in running the bet because of the worldwide interest.
Ms Furlong, an exchange student, was murdered at a hotel in Tokyo two years ago. American musician Richard Hinds was convicted of her murder.
Andrew Furlong told Joe Duffy earlier this week: “If one of his kids was murdered and I went into a betting office and I wanted to put a fiver on the outcome, what would he say back to me?
“They have family [the Steenkamps]. They are going through what we have been going through and he has the audacity to suggest that it is a novelty bet. He does not know what he is doing.”
Paddy Power has frequently courted controversy with its adverting campaigns.