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Complaints claiming Paddy Power advert was 'anti-English', 'offensive' and 'racist' upheld

The advertisement in question ran as part of a Paddy Power branded Six Nations Campaign.

Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

THE ADVERTISING STANDARDS Authority of Ireland (ASAI) has upheld six complaints made against Paddy Power over an advertisement which referenced the 800 years of English involvement in Ireland. 

The advertisement in question ran as part of a Paddy Power branded Six Nations Campaign and was created as a satirical joke in the lead-up to the Ireland vs England rugby game in Dublin. 

The advert read: “Dear England, sorry for the last two years of pain, suffering and humiliation. Another 798 years and we’ll be even. Paddy Power.”

The ASAI received six complaints in relation to the advert, which considered it to be racist, offensive, anti-English in sentiment, stirring up anti-English feelings, and both highly insensitive and bigoted towards English people. 

Complaints included that the content was confusing, inciting to violence, inflammatory, harmful and hostile and bordering on incitement to hatred of all things English.

Complainants also considered the advertisement to be unhelpful in the context of Brexit.

In a response to the ASAI, Paddy Power said it sought to promote advertising campaigns that were “edgy, humorous and engaging”.

Paddy Power said it was never its intention to cause offence with the advertisement and expressed its regrets “for any offence caused to the complainants in this instance”. 

The advertiser said, however, that it “did not believe that offence was a rational response to the advertisement”. 

The advertiser said that the advertisement was created as a satirical joke in the lead-up to the Ireland vs England Six Nations rugby game.

The advertiser said that the advertisement ran as part of a Paddy Power branded Six Nations campaign which included three billboards – ‘Try putting a tariff on this Irish beef’, ‘There’s no stopping these backstops’ and ‘Welcome to the biggest English-speaking City in Europe’ – over the weekend of 1-3 February 2019.

Paddy Power said the campaign was intended to “ignite Brexit fun and friendly rivalry between the fans of the Irish and English teams”.

The advertiser said it believed the advertisement and the campaign were “generally well-received and understood as light-hearted humorous reflections in relation to Brexit and friendly sporting rivalry between the English and Irish teams”.

It said that the implied reference in the advertisement in relation to 800 years of English rule in Ireland “was not intended as a hostile or inflammatory reference”.

Paddy Power said the advert “did not incite racial hatred” and refuted this suggestion.

It said the “tongue-in-cheek” language used in the advert and the context in the background of its appearance (Six Nations sporting rivalry and Brexit) made clear that it was “not subjecting people to ridicule or exploiting them on the grounds of race”.

The advertiser said the advertisement was socially responsible, it contained a responsible gambling message and an ’18+’ symbol and complied with Section 10 of the Code (Gambling).

Paddy Power said the campaign and the advert itself were “extremely popular” with both British and Irish citizens and that an “immense level of goodwill was shown to their brand as a result”. 

It said it did not receive backlash on social media from activist groups and had no requests from the press for official comment. 

Complaints upheld

The ASAI has upheld the complaints made. 

The complaints committee noted that hat the advert ran as part of a Paddy Power branded Six Nations campaign and that it was created as a satirical joke in the lead-up to the rugby game. 

The committee accepted that friendly sporting rivalry between teams prevailed, whether at provincial, national or international level. 

The committee also considered that reference to “pain, suffering and humiliation” may have an appropriate place in rugby as a contact sport and given the performance history between teams.

However, noting the history between the two countries, the committee considered that references to pain, suffering and humiliation with ‘we’ll be even’ was “likely to cause offence”.

They considered that the content was neither prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society nor responsive to the diversity in Irish society and was in breach of Code sections 3.3, 3.16 and 3.17.

The ASAI determined that as the advert was time bound, no further action was required. 

The committee reminded advertisers to exercise care when referencing historical relations between countries.

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