Citing an “an unprecedented number of complaints,” the Advertising Standards Authority has ordered Irish bookmaker Paddy Power to withdraw an advertisement that featured Paralympic gold medalist Oscar Pistorius as an “Oscar” film award statuette.
Pistorius is currently on trial in South Africa for the murder of his model and reality TV star girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The advert was the subject of more than 5,000 complaints to the ASA, easily breaking the previous record of 1,671 complaints for a Kentucky Fried Chicken ad in which call centre employees sang with their mouths full, BBC News reported.
Quite troubling to those who found the Paddy Power ad offensive was the fact that the oddsmaker was accepting wagers on the murder trial’s outcome, going so far as to offer a refund to punters who happen to lose their bet should Pistorius be found not guilty and “walk” away scot-free. A bit of irony is that Pistorius is a double amputee who wears artificial limbs on both legs following an amputation at 11 months of age after being born with fibular hemimelia.
Putting Pistorius’ head on an Oscar statuette also possibly implied that being found not guilty of the murder charge would require Pistorius to continue with his award-winning “act” of believing that he was shooting at an intruder, which was the claim that the “Blade Runner” made to police following the shooting and untimely death of Steenkamp.
Womens’ rights groups were up in arms over the Paddy Power advert, believing that violence by men toward women was being mocked. Actually, the ASA mentioned that the ad could be construed offensive on three counts, “for trivialising the issues surrounding a murder trial, the death of a woman, and disability.”
In addition to the thousands of complaints fielded by the ASA, an online petition rebuking the ad garnered more than 120,000 signatures. Paddy Power held fast in their resolve to continue promoting the ad, with a spokesperson insisting that attraction to the trial was worldwide and that “everyone is interested and intrigued.”
But the ASA’s decision finding that the advert harms “the good reputation of the advertising industry” and that it “may be seriously prejudicial to the general public” requires Paddy Power to withdraw publication. The ASA ordered the advert’s removal prior to concluding their investigation, which is highly “unusual,” said ASA chairman Lord Smith.