Paddy Power Pistorius advert brought industry ‘into disrepute’

Decision by Irish standards authority expected this week

The top section of a handout issued by the Advertising Standards Authority of a Paddy Power advert offering a refund on all losing bets if Oscar Pistorius is found not guilty of the murder of his girlfriend.  It became the most complained-about UK ad of all time two weeks ago. Photograph: ASA/PA Wire

The top section of a handout issued by the Advertising Standards Authority of a Paddy Power advert offering a refund on all losing bets if Oscar Pistorius is found not guilty of the murder of his girlfriend. It became the most complained-about UK ad of all time two weeks ago. Photograph: ASA/PA Wire

 

Paddy Power, the Irish-based bookmaker, has been given a severe ticking off by the UK Advertising Standards Authority over its Oscar Pistorius advert, suggesting a shortening on the odds for a similar telling off from the standards authority in Ireland.

The bookmaker faced a record 5,525 complaints in Britain over an advertisement it placed in The Sun on Sunday newspaper on February 24th, the day of the Hollywood Oscars. It offered punters their money back if Oscar Pistorius, the South African Paralympian on trial for murdering his girlfriend, was acquitted.

“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,” said The Sun ad with a photograph of an Academy Award statuette with Pistorius’ face superimposed on it.

A version also ran in some Irish media outlets the following day. That prompted about 70 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI).

The UK standards body, which took the unusual step of directing the company to withdraw the ad, has now also ruled that it brought advertising as a whole into disrepute.

“We acknowledged that the ad had appeared in the context of a high profile murder trial that had received extensive media coverage and was of interest to the public,” the ASA said in its adjudication, published today.

“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.

“Given the content of the ad, and the prevailing circumstances at the time of its publication, we concluded that it brought advertising into disrepute.” An adjudication by the ASAI is expected this week.

Paddy Power’s head of communications Paddy Power (no relation), said last night the company accepted the UK authority decision but that it had created the ad “in good faith” and management were surprised at the adverse reaction.

“I wouldn’t say ‘no regrets’, but certainly we were surprised at the level of reaction we got. It was the highest number of complaints on record so I guess we got a record out of it,” said Mr Power.