Paddy Power’s Shock Tactic Breaks an Unwritten Rule

I’m a huge fan of Paddy Power’s marketing strategy. Its must-follow Facebook and Twitter profiles are packed full of great examples of eye-catching, topical and irreverent humour that give it fantastic reach across social media, and it’s become well-known for attention-grabbing PR stunts.

In the world of Paddy Power, everyone’s fair game for a bit of gentle teasing and, sometimes, not-so-gentle scorn.

But the company’s latest ad has provoked outrage by offering ‘money back if [Oscar Pistorious] walks’ with a not-guilty verdict from his murder trial.

Oscar-744x1024It’s difficult to even know where to start with this one.

Are victims of tragic violence, like Pistorious’ former girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, fair game for unashamed publicity stunts? Is it out of order to use a pun like ‘if he walks’ when applied to a double amputee?

After the new ad appeared yesterday morning, promoted on Paddy Power’s blog and spuriously timed to coincide with the Oscars, it caused an immediate storm of contempt and anger on Twitter. The Advertising Standards Authority has reportedly received numerous complaints from both anti-domestic violence campaigners and from disabled people’s rights groups demanding the ad be withdrawn.

And while I’m not easily offended, even I drew breath when I saw this on Twitter. To the point where I thought it was probably a wind up. There’s a line irreverent brands should not cross, but Paddy Power’s flown a long way past it with this. As Mark Perkins said on Twitter of the stunt: “A PR low. Paddy Power is scraping a barrel no one else would touch.” Quite.

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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