ASA Adjudication on Paddy Power plc
Paddy Power plc
1 August 2012
Number of complaints:
A radio ad for Paddy Power betting service stated "Jack Cooper wrote on the Paddy Power Facebook wall "I'll give you anything for a decent offer Paddy!" We hear you Jack! Anything eh? Well, just chuck us a kidney and in return we'll give you ... this beauty for the golf. Back any player to win The Masters and if Tiger Woods wins, you get your money back! And, because there's another kidney where that came from, here's another cracker: We're playing six places on each-way bets! Bet online or on your Paddy Power mobile app and good luck with the dialysis. We hear you Jack Cooper!"
Kidney Wales Foundation and 26 members of the public objected that the ad was offensive and likely to cause distress, in particular to kidney dialysis patients, transplant patients and their loved ones.
Paddy Power plc (Paddy Power) said they had not intended to cause serious harm or widespread offence and believed this would not be a natural response to the ad. They said the ad used the theme of a "we hear you" campaign and was clearly based on humour as opposed to any attempt to deal with serious issues. They said the notion of a figurative willingness to offer one's kidney in exchange for something that was keenly desired had become part of the modern lexicon in much the same way as the notion of someone exchanging their "right arm". They added that at no point did the ad suggest that anyone really had (or would) exchange a kidney for a decent offer from Paddy Power and believed that the reference to dialysis at the end of the ad was clearly in keeping with the farcical nature of the rest of the ad and would not be taken seriously. They believed the farcical nature of both the expression itself and the reference to dialysis in the ad reflected the tongue-in-cheek nature of the ad and the overall campaign rather than any intention to cause, or actual causing of, widespread offence.
The RACC said that whilst they accepted the ad may have seemed insensitive to the complainants, they did not feel it was likely to be considered by most Talksport listeners to be seriously offensive or distressing. They believed the Jack Cooper character and his musings on Facebook about doing or giving anything for a Paddy Power offer would be taken in the spirit in which it came across and therefore as irreverent and light-hearted. They believed the ad would not be regarded as making light of kidney failure or mocking those undergoing dialysis.
The ASA noted the ad concentrated on the fictional Jack Cooper character and the lengths he would go to in order to obtain a decent offer from Paddy Power. Whilst exchanging a kidney for something desirable was not as well known as the familiar phrase "give my right arm", we considered that within the context of this ad it would be understood as an extension of that phrase. We therefore considered that listeners would interpret the "good luck with the dialysis" comment within that very specific context and that it would be understood as a tongue-in-cheek comment aimed directly at the Jack Cooper character who had given away his kidneys in exchange for a good offer. Whilst the reference to such a serious medical procedure may have appeared flippant and could be seen as insensitive to people who had experienced dialysis, we considered that within the context of this particular ad, most listeners would understand that it was a fictional, slightly ridiculous situation which did not represent real life or real life situations. Whilst some listeners, including those who had experience of dialysis, may have found the ad distasteful, we concluded that it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 4.2 and 4.10 (Harm and offence) but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.