Paddy Power blames ‘stretched’ domestic violence claims for most complained ad status

Advertising Week 2014: Paddy Power blames the record number of complaints against its banned Oscar Pistorius murder trial ad on the “surprising” claims it promoted violence towards women.

Bookmaker ‘surprised’ Oscar Pistorius ad sparked domestic violence claims.

Speaking at an Advertising Week Europe panel today (3 April), Paddy Power’s head of brand Paul Sweeney said the “stretched” complaints from domestic abuse charities were untrue. The media spotlight on the charities at the time of the wider, public backlash against the brand was “ultimately” what led to more than 5,500 complaints just days after the ad ran, he added.

Sweeney said: “There is a certain amount of pride we take in being responsible for the most complained ad of all time. We knew we’d be on a line of taste and decency on whether it’s right to take bets on a murder trial and make light of a person’s disability.

“What surprised us was how it got spun around violence towards women. That couldn’t be further from the truth. [The reaction] was a little bit of a stretch and I think that’s what ultimately led to so many people complaining about the ad.”

The perennial mischief maker advertiser was urged by charities last month to donate the profits made from the Pistorius bets. Paddy Power declined and claimed “it’s not a betting market on domestic violence”.

The ad, which ran for one day in the Sun on Sunday, promised a ”money back if he walks” offer for bets on the outcome of the athlete’s trial, which started last month (3 March).

Sweeney hit back at suggestions its marketing was in bad taste, adding its campaigns target an audience looking for a “lighthearted take” on news and sport entertainment. Paddy Power plots its pranks with a view to “conspiring with fans to change sport for the better”, he added.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the press ad, last month, saying it brought “advertising into disrepute”.