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ASA Ruling on Paddy Power plc

Paddy Power plc

Airton House
Airton Road
Tallaght
Dublin 24

Date:

16 May 2012

Media:

Television

Sector:

Leisure

Number of complaints:

92

Agency:

Crispin Porter & Bogusky

Complaint Ref:

A12-188096

Background

Summary of Council decision:

Two issues were investigated and both were Upheld.

Ad

A TV ad for Paddy Power, seen in February 2012, had a voice-over which stated "Ian Reed wrote on our Facebook wall 'Can't wait to see some beauties at Cheltenham Ladies Day'" and showed the comment on their Facebook page. The ad then showed various shots of Cheltenham racecourse while the voice-over stated "We hear you Ian and we're going to make Ladies Day even more exciting by sending in some beautiful transgendered ladies! Spot the stallions from the mares!". The words "Stallions" and "Mares" appeared on screen in large text and were shown to mate with each other. The voice-over then stated "Here we go" and the ad showed a series of brief shots of people at the event while the voice-over attempted to guess their gender. Their actual gender was not given. In one scene a woman was shown holding a dog while the voice-over stated "woman" then hesitated while the shot changed to show a woman walking out of a men's toilet and stated "dog, I mean, man". At the end of the ad the voice-over stated "And remember, all the runners, all the riders, right in the palm of your hand with Paddy Power Mobile. We hear you Ian Reed!"

Issue

The ASA received 92 complaints:

1. The Kent Transgender Forum, LGBT Diversity and 90 other complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive.

2. The Kent Transgender Forum and LGBT Diversity and 24 other complainants challenged whether the ad condoned and encouraged harmful discriminatory behaviour and treatment.

BCAP Code

Response

Paddy Power plc (Paddy Power) said they sought to comply with the CAP and BCAP Codes and were mindful of the regulation around the betting and gaming industry. They said, because their customers were adults, the ad contained adult humour directed to an adult audience.

Paddy Power said they took their responsibilities as an advertiser very seriously and had carefully considered the issues associated with the idea at the concept stage. They said, in following what they considered to be best practice, they consulted the Beaumont Society, which they understood was the largest and longest established transgender support group in the UK. They said they had shared the script for the ad with the Beaumont Society and worked with them and Clearcast to ensure the ad met with broadcasting and decency standards and argued that the ad had therefore been prepared responsibly.

1. & 2. Paddy Power said it was never their intention to cause harm or offence and they were saddened to learn that some viewers were offended by the ad. They said the concept behind the ad was to create interest around Ladies Day in a humorous and light-hearted way and the ad did not cause, and could not reasonably be construed as causing, serious offence. With regard to the suggestion that the ad might have caused widespread offence, they believed that the complaints had come from an organised campaign which over-represented concern about the ad.

Paddy Power said the scene in which a person was shown leaving a men's toilet while the voice-over stated "dog" had to be viewed in context of the whole ad and drew its humour from the narrator's inability to identify whether the people featured were men or women which led him, in his confusion, to responding automatically with "dog" before correcting himself to say "man". They believed the scene was not offensive to men, women or members of the transgender community. They said the image of the word "stallions" mating with "mares" was also intended to be humorous.

Paddy Power said, at the time of responding, the ad was still on YouTube and had attracted a large number of views and had been 'liked' by the vast majority. They said they took all reasonable steps to ensure that the ad was not offensive or discriminatory and were certainly not condoning or encouraging any discriminatory behaviour. Paddy Power argued that the ASA Council had previously 'Not upheld' similar complaints about an ad which featured a transsexual dancer and for which the advertiser had also consulted with the Beaumont Society to ensure that the sensitivities of the transgender and transsexual communities were taken into account.

Clearcast said they worked very closely with the advertising agency prior to approving the ad to ensure that the treatment complied fully with both the spirit and letter of the BCAP Code. They said, when the ad was first submitted they had expressed concerns about the offence that may be caused to members of the transgender community and had therefore directed Paddy Power to seek a view from the Beaumont Society, whom the ASA had previously recognised as an appropriate place to seek advice on scripts concerning possible transgender related issues.

Clearcast said, whilst they acknowledged that the ad might not be to everyone's personal taste, they also took into account the view received by the Beaumont Society, that the ad fell short of encouraging negative stereotypes of transgender people and women in general. They said, once the ad went to air, the response from certain groups in the transgender community as well as viewers, made them uncomfortable with the advice which they had received. They said, given the level of discomfort that was expressed they consulted with the broadcasters and jointly agreed that the clearance for the ad should be revoked.

Assessment

The ASA noted the response provided by Clearcast and that Paddy Power, at Clearcast's direction, had sought a view on the concept and script from the Beaumont Society who were a national self-help body run by and for those who cross-dressed or were transsexual. The Beaumont Society explained that they had advised Paddy Power to use "transgendered" believing that that phrase was not problematic, but that they now understood that some sections of the transgender community were offended by it. They provided a copy of the script on which they had advised and pointed out that it did not include the scene in which a woman left a men's toilet and was referred to as a dog, and said they did not agree with its inclusion. They said, while the script they were provided with did make reference to "stallions" and "mares", they were not happy with the manner in which those terms were used in the finished ad, which they had not seen prior to broadcast. We noted that, following negative feedback, Clearcast had now revoked the clearance for the ad.

The ASA also sought advice from Trans Media Watch whose specific area of work was the media portrayal of transgender issues and people.

1. Upheld

The ASA understood that "transgender" (trans) was an umbrella term used to describe individuals who chose to present themselves in a gender other than that which they were assigned at birth. We understood, for example, that someone with gender dysphoria may choose to undergo transition to a different gender and would describe themselves as transsexual while others might choose not to identify with a particular traditional gender at all. We understood that the trans community included those who would describe themselves as transsexuals, transvestites, cross-dressers or a number of other terms. We therefore considered that the suggestion that trans people could be segregated into the gender stereotypes "stallions" and "mares" as part of a guessing game, trivialised a complex and difficult issue and objectified them in a way that was likely to cause them serious offence.

We understood that gender identity was a complex issue which presented serious ongoing psychological difficulties for many of those who struggled with it. We noted, for example, that 2007 research had found that 34% of adult trans people reported having attempted suicide at least once as an adult. We understood from the complaints and from the guidance we had received from Trans Media Watch that trans people were still regularly confronted with a number of negative stereotypes, for example, that they were unattractive, that their gender would be outwardly ambiguous in a way that was humorous, that they would look like men in drag or that being transgender was the same as simply dressing up as the opposite sex. We noted that the ad did not make clear how the featured individuals would define their own gender but that, in one scene, a person who appeared quite feminine was then shown to have a very masculine arm and, in the final two scenes, people with very masculine features, but with feminine hair, clothes and make-up were shown. We noted that, in the penultimate scene the voice-over abandoned the guessing and instead laughed and stated "well, good luck with that Ian". We considered that the ad in general and those scenes in particular depicted those negative stereotypes in a way that was also likely to be seriously offensive to trans people.

We noted that, in one scene, a person was shown holding a dog, while the voice-over hesitated, before saying "dog", by which time the scene had changed to show a woman leaving a man's toilet. We considered that the suggestion that a trans woman would need to, or should, use a men's toilet and the reference to a woman as a dog were also likely to cause serious offence to women generally and trans women specifically. We concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence.

On this point the ad breached BCAP Code rule 4.2 (Harm and offence).

2. Upheld

We considered for the reasons given in point 1 above, that the ad trivialised a highly complex issue and depicted a number of common negative stereotypes about trans people. We considered that by suggesting that trans women would look like men in drag and that their gender could be speculated on as part of a game, the ad irresponsibly reinforced those negative stereotypes and, particularly by framing the game in a way that involved a member of the public who had commented on Paddy Power's Facebook page, the ad condoned and encouraged harmful discriminatory behaviour and treatment.

On this point the ad breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Social responsibility) and 4.8 (Harm and offence).

Action

The ad must not be shown again in its current form.

How to comply with the rules

For advice and training on the Advertising Codes please visit the CAP website.

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