Paddy Power Ad Spot Banned for Prioritizing Gambling Over Family Life
The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a TV spot advertising the operator’s “Wonder Wheel” game for portraying gambling as “taking priority in life over family.”
The offending spot shows a young man playing the game in his partner’s parents’ home, while surrounded by family members.
He is briefly interrupted by his partner’s mother, an attractive sexagenarian, who brings him a drink. He glances up from the game to thank her, before returning to the screen.
With Paddy Power’s Wonder Wheel, you get a free spin with a chance to win cash prizes every single day,” proclaims a voiceover.
At this point. the man’s partner asks him, “Do you think I will end up looking like my mum?”
“I hope so” he replies, distracted by his phone, before appearing to suddenly realize his slip.
“So, no matter how badly you stuff it [mess up],” resumes the voiceover, “you’ll always get another chance with Paddy Power games.”
The man goes back to looking at his phone.
The comedic merit of the spot was not up for debate, although it is not one of Paddy Power’s finest moments.
Instead, the ASA’s remit was to decide whether it irresponsibly encouraged repeat-gambling and implied that betting was more important than family interaction.
The ASA said it recognized the ad was light-hearted in tone. But it added most viewers would understand that the protagonist “behaved in a way which was not appropriate at a family event because he was distracted by gambling.”
“We considered that the girlfriend’s shocked expression in response to his answer supported the assumption that he would not ordinarily be so tactless in his communication,” said the watchdog.
Although we accepted it was a brief moment, because we considered most viewers would understand that distraction caused by gambling had caused an embarrassing gaffe at a family event, and therefore concluded that the ad portrayed gambling as taking priority in life over family”, it determined.
Paddy Power argued that because Wonder Wheel is a free game, where players get one free spin per day, the ad was not promoting any real-money gambling game.
It fell on deaf ears. The ASA ruled the spot must not appear again in its current form, although it is still mysteriously viewable on YouTube.
Money Back if he Walks
The ad is mild by Paddy Power standards. The company has a long history of employing shock-marketing tactics. But this has been tempered lately by an impending regulatory clampdown in the UK, and it does not want to rock the boat.
The company holds the record for the ASA’s all-time most-complained-about advertisement. In 2014, in the midst of the Oscar Pretorius murder trial, Paddy Power offered odds on the result, plus a “money back if he walks” promotion.
Paralympian sprinter Pretorius was born without feet because of a congenital defect and used prosthetic limbs to run. He was ultimately convicted of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
In 2016, the company advertised its odds on the US election by asking “is orange the new black?”
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