Paddy Power Rapped Over Pistorius Advert
The bookmaker has been heavily criticised for an advertising campaign in which it offered "money off if he walks" in connection with South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, who is on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The Advertising Standards Authority ruled Paddy Power had brought advertising into disrepute over a campaign that drew a record 5,525 complaints - the most complained about UK advert of all time.
The advert, placed in the Sun on Sunday, used an image similar to an Oscar statuette with the face of Pistorius, next to text stating: "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."
Unusually, the ASA ordered the immediate withdrawal of the advert pending its investigation of complaints that it trivialised the issues surrounding a murder trial, the death of a woman, as well as disability.
Others complainants said the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
In its defence, Paddy Power said "it strongly believed" that its betting offer did not trivialise the issues surrounding the Pistorius case but said that, because of the high level of media coverage of the trial, it was "unsurprising" that complaints had been received.
It insisted its ad was a reflection of public interest, not a commentary on death, violence or disability.
And while it accepted "if he walks" could be ambiguous, it was a play on words and not intended to be offensive.
The newspaper involved said it did not intend to cause offence to readers, and regretted that it had.
Advertising rules stated that references to anyone who was dead must be handled with particular care.
The ASA said the ad was likely to be interpreted as making light of the issues surrounding the trial, which included the death of a woman who had been shot by her boyfriend.
"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 watchdog said.
"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."