Paddy Power’s Pistorius ad pulled by watchdog after record 5,200 complaints

The ad watchdog has ordered Paddy Power to pull its advertisement offering to refund customers if Oscar Pistorius is not found guilty of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after it became the most complained about ad of all time. 

Ad watchdog receives more than 5,200 complaints about Oscar Pistorius spot.

The Advertising Standards Authority has received more than 5,200 complaints to date from people complaining the ad is in poor taste. The total is more than three times the 1,671 people that complained about a 2005 ad for KFC – the previous most complained about ad of all time – that featured call centre workers talking with their mouths full of chicken. 

In a statement, the ASA says it has ordered the bookmaker to withdraw the ad with ”immediate effect” following ”an unprecedented number of complaints”. The watchdog can ask for ads to be removed under the Advertising Code pending the outcome of an investigation. 

The ad will now be the subject of a formal invesigation to determine whether it is offensive for ”trivialising the issues surrounding a murder trial, the death of a woman and disability” and therefore ”brings the good reputation of advertising generally into dispute”.

The press ad promised a ”money back if he walks” offer for bets on the outcome of the athlete’s trial, which started Monday (3 March). The ad, which ran at the weekend (2 March), was designed to tap into buzz around that night’s Oscars as well as the trial and featured an image of Pistorius mocked up as an Academy Award statue with the slogan ”It’s Oscar Time”.

The ad has also been the subject of a petition to have it banned. The petition had 122,684 supporters when this article was published.

A spokeswoman for Paddy Power was characteristically unrepentant in response. “In your face, KFC”, she says.

Previous efforts include an ad that showed a blind footballer kicking a cat into a tree, which topped 2010’s most complained about list, and a 2012 spot that showed “chavs” being shot by tranquiliser darts


Ruth Mortimer

Paddy Power’s ‘mischief’ strategy with Pistorius ad is a misjudgement

Ruth Mortimer

Advertising designed to shock has always existed. It even has its own name – “Shockvertising”. But the last few years have seen a decline in such marketing, due to research showing that giving consumers a positive “nudge” is more effective in encouraging behaviour change. But it seems shockvertising is back. Paddy Power, Save the Children […]


    Leave a comment