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article imageUK pulls Pistorius betting ad; offers 'money back' if not guilty

By Yukio Strachan     Mar 5, 2014 in World
London - After receiving a record number of complaints, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has been ordered to remove a controversial Oscar Pistorius betting ad which offered customers "money back if he walks."
British advertising regulators, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), announced the decision Wednesday on its website after receiving 5,200 complaints in two days about the press ads, UK's Guardian reported.
The ‘It’s Oscar Time’ ad, which was timed to coincide with the start of Monday's trial in Pretoria, featured an Oscar-style Academy Award statuette in the likeness of Pistorius.
“MONEY BACK IF HE WALKS,” the ad promised customers. “WE WILL REFUND ALL LOSING BETS ON THE OSCAR PISTORIUS TRIAL IF HE IS FOUND NOT GUILTY”. (Ad seen in video below)
According to The Drum, a blog post from Paddy Power introducing the betting offer said: “Global media attention, bar-stool conversation and pillow talk will shift from the Oscars on Sunday night to Oscar on Monday when the Blade Runner straps on his prosthetic limbs for the long walk to the high court.
“Paddy Power is joining the debate by offering customers an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is – on the outcome of the murder trial.”
Ad sparks outrage
The response was swift. Within a few hours of being promoted, a feminist who goes by the name of Jean Hatchet started an online petition on Change.org demanding that Paddy Power "drop the bet, apologize for the adverts and give a donation to an organization working with victims of domestic violence."
As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition had over 122,000 signatures.
This petition sparked the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to launch a formal investigation on "whether the ad is offensive for trivializing the issues surrounding a murder trial, the death of a woman and disability; we are also challenging whether, in doing so, it brings the good reputation of advertising generally into dispute."
But the ASA only has regulating authority in the UK. It explained: "The ASA is not investigating complaints about the ad appearing on Paddy Power’s own website. The advertiser is based in Ireland and as a consequence the material on its website falls outside our remit."
ASA's counterparts in Ireland are now also investigating the campaign, The Drum reported.
Reactions to decision
Meanwhile, petition sponsor Hatchet, who said she was herself a "survivor of domestic violence and abuse," welcomed the decision to pull the ad. "Women, survivors, sufferers, activists, silenced women everywhere. Just once in a while we get heard. #HerNameWasReevaSteenkamp," she tweeted.
Lawmakers also praised the advertising watchdog. "Well done ASA for stopping @paddypower shameful ad campaign exploiting Reeva Steenkamp's death," tweeted Yvette Cooper, the opposition Labour Party's Shadow Home Secretary.
The Paralympic sprinter is currently in court facing a premeditated murder charge for the early morning Valentine's day killing of his girlfriend, model and law school graduate, Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. According to CNN, he also faces a gun charge related to the killing, along with two additional gun-related charges for two separate instances of firing a gun in a public space before the killing.
Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
More about oscar pistorius trial, Pistorius betting ad, Paddy power, Advertising standards authority, Jean Hatchet
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