U.K. Regulator Bans Oscar Pistorius Ad Amid Record Complaints

2:42 AM PST 03/06/2014 by Georg Szalai
AFP/Getty Images
Oscar Pistorius

The ad from betting firm Paddy Power showed the South African Paralympian's head superimposed on an Oscar statuette and offered "money back if he walks."

LONDON – The U.K. advertising watchdog has banned an ad by betting firm Paddy Power that drew a record number of complaints for referencing the murder trial against South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius.

Paddy Power, headquartered in Ireland but also operating in the U.K., ran a print ad and online campaign offering "money back if he walks," meaning if the athlete is found not guilty of the murder of model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, for bets on the trial. 

 

Britain's Advertising Standards Authority received 5,200 complaints by Wednesday, a new record, the Guardian reported. 

 

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The previous record was set by a KFC ad showing call center employees singing with their mouths full. It had drawn 1,671 complaints,

according to the Guardian.

 

The Paddy Power ad, which ran in The Sun on Sunday, showed Pistorius' head superimposed on an Oscar statuette. The text read: "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."

 

The ad watchdog told Paddy Power to withdraw the Pistorius ad with "immediate effect," saying it would probe if it was "offensive for trivializing the issues surrounding a murder trial, the death of a woman and disability." The ASA also said it was looking at whether the ad "brings the good reputation of advertising generally into dispute."

 

Typically, the ASA only bans ads after a full investigation. But in this case, it said that the ad must "remain out of all circulation in U.K. media" until it finishes its review.

 

The ASA can not investigate the online promotion on Paddy Power's web site since the company's headquarters is in Ireland. 

 

A spokesman for the bookmaker told the Guardian that the ad was not meant to run beyond Sunday's Sun placement.

 

The partly televised trial against double amputee Pistorius started on Monday. The athlete, known as the "Blade Runner," is charged with the premeditated murder of Steenkamp at his home in Pretoria. He has pleaded not guilty, claiming he shot her after mistaking her for an intruder.

 

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

 

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