A radio ad for Paddy Power, heard on 12 March 2022, featured a conversation between a father and his prospective son-in-law. The ad began with the father-in-law saying, “So you’re the man marrying my Olivia, eh?” The son-in-law said, ”Yeah.” The father-in-law then said, “Tell me, Cheltenham’s this week, do you ride?” and the son-in-law replied, “Er, only with your daughter, sir.” This exchange was followed by the sound of a glass smashing. A voice-over then said, “Blown your big chance?”
IssueThe complainant, who believed the ad was degrading to women, challenged whether the ad was offensive and harmful.
PPB Counterparty Services Ltd t/a Paddy Power said that they did not agree that the ad would cause serious or widespread offence because they did not believe it was degrading to women or that it conveyed any implication of ownership over women.
They said that the ad depicted a ‘meet the parents’ scenario in what was a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek ad, which drew humour from an innocuous innuendo using a commonly known slang term. They said the statement about riding was made in the context of the Cheltenham Festival, and that the man’s response was a humorous illustration of the stress caused by meeting a future father-in-law, and how his response could have been misinterpreted by his father-in-law.
Paddy Power said that they did not believe the ad conveyed any harmful gender stereotypes, that no comparison was drawn between genders and there was no suggestion that the use of the term ‘ride’ was uniquely associated with women.
They said that the use of the term ‘my’ did not indicate ownership in the way challenged by the complaint. They said that in the ad’s context, a parent referring to a child, the term was considered affectionate, used as a term of endearment between father and child. They referred to definitions from two dictionaries, to demonstrate that the term was used to denote a member of someone’s family or a person who was very familiar to the speaker.
They said the ad was specifically for the Cheltenham festival and would not be used for any future marketing campaigns.
Radiocentre said they believed the scenario presented an innocuous joke about the son-in-law replying to his father-in-law's question with unintended innuendo, and the father-in-law taking offence where none was meant. They considered that the response of only riding ‘with’ your daughter in the context of asking if someone rode horses (at the time of the Cheltenham festival) did not mean having sex.
They also said that the use of ‘my Olivia’ would have been seen clearly as a familiar, affectionate shorthand for "my daughter" and therefore not suggesting ownership of women by men.
The ASA considered that the ad used a commonly understood situation relating to the anxiety about saying or doing something inappropriate when meeting a partner’s family for the first time and that the ad used sexual innuendo relating to the term ‘ride’ to illustrate that scenario. We acknowledged that the humour was derived from a commonly used, non-gender specific slang term for sex. However, whilst some listeners may have found the reference distasteful, we considered that the innuendo was relatively mild and therefore would be unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
We considered the phrase “my Olivia” was used to establish the father-daughter relationship and add to the context of the situation. We acknowledged that use of the possessive to define a familial relationship, specifically two males talking about a female, created the potential for listeners to interpret the ad as paternalistic or sexist. However, we considered that the term “my Olivia” would be interpreted in this instance to demonstrate the close relationship between the father and daughter.
We further considered whether some listeners might interpret the ad as portraying the gender stereotype of women as sexual objects or where a father’s approval of a relationship or marriage was influential, such that it could determine his daughter’s future. However, as above we considered that the ad would be taken as simply portraying a close relationship between the father and daughter, and the anxiety of the son-in-law in an awkward situation, and we did not consider that it portrayed a harmful gender stereotype.
Given the above, we concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, or harm.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards.
Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of: age; disability; gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. and 4.14 4.14 Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.
See Advertising Guidance: “Depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence?” (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.