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Advertising Law

Ad poking fun at Pistorius murder trial sparks protests

Posted Mar 21, 2014 4:48 PM CDT
By Terry Carter

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The controversial Paddy Power ad.

An advertisement in Rupert Murdoch's British tabloid The Sunday Sun poking fun at the trial of Oscar Pistorius was so over-the-top and beneath good taste that the U.K's Advertisement Standards Authority ordered it yanked immediately, The Guardian reports.

The ad, created by cheeky Irish bookmakers Paddy Power—one company official's title is "Head of Mischief"—ran on Sunday, March 2. It was timed just before the start of Pistorius' trial and on the same day as the Academy Awards in the U.S., reports law firm Lewis Silkin's blog The Journal.

The ad showed a statuette bearing Oscar Pistorius' head in gold, and the message: "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 former Olympian is charged in the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

The ad "brought advertising into disrepute," according to the ASA, the independent regulator of advertising. U.K. advertising rules call for extra care in dealing with the deceased. There also was the matter of money back "if he walks." Both Pistorius' legs were amputated below the knee, and he runs on artificial limbs.

The ad was targeted by a Change.org online petition, and attracted a record 5,525 complaints. The Journal notes that this is far higher than the two previous record-holders: a KFC ad showing people chewing with their mouths open, and a condom ad featuring Pope John Paul II, neither of which received more than 1,700 complaints.

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