When Paddy Power undertake any form of advertising, most is done with a tongue in cheek type of humour or with a play on words.
This has resulted in many complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over the years and today, another ruling against the bookmaking giants has been published.
Often we read one of the complaints and believe that the complainant, and ultimately the ASA, have been over zealous in banning the advert in question, but today’s ruling was expected the moment the ad was seen.
Whilst we can see why the Paddy Power ad attracted nine complaints, a substantial amount when most only have one or two complainants, we still believe that the intention was just a play on words rather than to cause offence.
The ad in question was seen in the press, in the Evening Standard and in the Metro and showed an image of Floyd Mayweather. The headline read “Always bet on black” and then details of the special offer.
It was the reference to colour that incited the nine complaints and each of the nine complainants challenged if the ad was likely to cause widespread offence.
Of course the complaints were upheld, there were always going to be people offended by it. The ASA found that it breached the CAP Code below:
Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code.
Paddy Power did defend the advert and were keen to explain to the ASA that the headline was a gambling related pun. The Mayweather vs McGregor fight was taking place in Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the word, and ‘always bet on black’ referenced the game of roulette.
‘Always bet on black’ was also a quote from the film Passenger 57 where Wesley Snipes says ‘Do you ever play roulette? Well, let me give you a word of advice; always bet on black’.
The same line was also parodied in the Lego Batman Movie of 2017. Mentioning this movie may not have been a smart move by Paddy Power in their defence of their advert, they could have found themselves in breach of another CAP code around appealing to children!
You can read the full adjudication on the ASA link here.
As with any of the rulings by the ASA, it’s all done in retrospect and is it going to deter Paddy Power from overstepping the mark in the future? We hope not! Their ads are genius and achieve what all marketing is supposed to do, grab the viewers/readers attention.