Paddy Power, the Irish bookmaker has received a rap across the knuckles for its “offensive” advert relating to bets on the Oscar Pistorius trial.
The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) has upheld complaints about the controversial ‘It’s Oscar Time. Money back if he walks‘ ads run by Paddy Power.
Pistorius is accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his Pretoria home on Valentine’s Day in 2013. He faces charges of premeditated murder and contravening the Firearms Control Act.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In the advert (below), Paddy Power said it would refund all losing bets if Pistorius was acquitted.
The advert is a play on the name given to The Academy Awards, commonly known as The Oscars, and the first name of the Paralympic gold medal winner.
According to the Irish Independent, the advert elicited 65 complaints to the ASAI “with many saying it was offensive to victims, their families and women and that it trivialised domestic violence and murder and was offensive to the disabled”.
Paddy Power argued that it did not believe the advert breached the Code under any of the grounds cited or the complaints raised.
It did not cause grave or widespread offence on the grounds that it trivialised murder, death or violence, it argued. Nor did it make any reference to gender-related matters, or cause offence on the grounds of disability.
The advertisers said that the advert should be considered on its merits; “not in the context of outrage against the unfortunate death of someone in South Africa, or the emotive language about violence, disability or sexism without any rational connection to the Ad itself, but in the context of the public’s fascination with this news story and the lawfulness of promoting bets on that matter”.
“The Ad must be viewed for what it was: a market on a trial in South Africa on which many people in Ireland seem to be interested and to have an opinion,” Paddy Power said.
Legal consultation in SA
Paddy Power said it also took specific legal advice from a leading law firm in South Africa as to whether there were any risks with their offering a market in Ireland and the UK on the outcome of a court case in South Africa.
That advice concluded that the bookmaker was “at liberty to proceed with its proposal to offer odds on the outcome of the trial”.
It recommended, however, that Paddy Power should block access to the market to users in South Africa. The Ad was not published by Paddy Power in South Africa.
The complaints were upheld by the advertising authority.
It said that the Complaints Committee noted that the advertiser had obtained legal advice on the matter in the UK and South Africa.
The Committee noted the advertisers’ comments in relation to the publicity generated by others in relation to the campaign but noted that many of the complaints received predated much of the publicity referred to.
The committee accepted that there was no direct reference to the victim of the murder that is the subject of the trial.
“They considered, however, that by implication the outcome of the wagers involved were clearly related to the subject matter of the trial and the evidence being present there. They considered that it had been found to be offensive as it appeared to make light of murder and domestic violence,” the ASAI said.
The committee also accepted that 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.
The advertising authority ordered that the following action was required:
“The advertisement should not be used again in any media. The advertisers were reminded that, depending on the media selected, advertising can be seen by large sections of the population including many who do not appreciate or accept the level to which they claim to “push the boundaries” in some campaigns.