Oscar Pistorius trial ads

Paddy Power was forced to pull ads after more than 5,000 people complained about the company’s “Oscar campaign.”

According to The Guardian, on Wednesday, the Advertising Standards Authority instructed the Irish bookmaker to discontinue a series of ads with Oscar Pistorious’ face superimposed over a statue of an Academy Award. In the campaign, the company offered to refund losing bets on the Oscar Pistorius trial if the South African Paralympian is found not guilty of murdering his girlfriend.

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A gold medalist in the men’s 400 metre race and the 4 x 100 metre relay at the 2012 Summer Paralympics, Pistorius was charged on February 14, 2013 with the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, whom he fatally shot at his home earlier that morning. His trial began March 3 and is set to continue through March 20.

The ASA’s insistence that Paddy Power pull the ads was an unusual move given that the organization typically allows campaigns to run while conducting an investigation into a possible breach in the UK advertising code. But an online petition at Change.org forced the ASA’s hand after it attracted more than 122,000 signatures.

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In statement released Wednesday, the organization said, “We consider the ad may be seriously prejudicial to the general public on the ground of the likely further serious and/or widespread offence [sic] it may cause. We are also concerned that the good reputation of the advertising industry may be further damaged by continued publication of this ad.”

The ASA is not pursuing complaints about ads about Pistorius posted on the Paddy Power website, since the company is based in Ireland and out of the organization’s jurisdiction. That said, a cursory search of the website produced no images of the campaign, although the company is still taking bets on the verdict of the trial. Additionally, a spokesperson for the company indicated that the ads were part of a one-off promotion scheduled concurrently with the Academy Awards broadcast, and not part of a larger campaign.

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