The advertisement which featured on social media channels included pictures of the following five sports stars, Andy Murray, Raheem Sterling, Mo Farah, Manu Tualigi and Eoin Morgan, they were shown on a truck side. The text read as follows:
“IMMIGRANTS JUMP IN THE BACK!
(BUT ONLY IF YOU’RE GOOD AT SPORT)
Complainants considered the advertisement to be in poor taste, offensive, racist, and exploiting the situation that immigrants in Calais currently found themselves in, i.e. jumping onto moving lorries to gain entry to the UK. One complainant considered that the advertisers were making a joke out of human tragedy, while another considered it was likely to inflame negative attitudes towards immigrants. One complainant queried the use of Andy Murray in the advertisement.
The advertisers said that they sought to promote advertising campaigns that were edgy, humorous and engaging and it had never been their intention to cause offence with their advertising and regretted the offence caused to the complainants in this instance. They said the advertisement in question was created as a satirical joke in respect of Britain’s leading sportsmen ahead of Andy Murray’s second round match at the 2015 Wimbledon Championship and they had not designed the advertisement to cause offence or to be insulting to immigrants. They said they considered that by having Scotsman, Andy Murray, front and centre of the advertisement they had made it abundantly clear that they were poking fun at “British” sporting talent. They believed that the vast majority of the audience in receipt of the advertisement could reasonably be construed as being fans of their services and the mischief element of their marketing campaigns, while following them on Twitter and Facebook.
The advertisers said that their advertising had not in any way incited racial hatred and they wholly refuted this suggestion. They said their “only if you’re good at sport” wording and the variety of sportsmen of mixed race on the face of the advertisement demonstrated that they were not discriminating against race. They said they were of the opinion that the tongue in cheek language and mixture of sportsmen and race used in the advertisement made it clear that they were not subjecting people to ridicule or exploiting them on the grounds of race.
The advertisers also said that they did not consider the use of Andy Murray in their advertising had breached the Code. They said that the Code required that advertisers “should”, not “must”, have written permission in advance from living persons portrayed in their advertising. They said they had not portrayed Mr. Murray in a manner which was derogatory to him but rather they had promoted him as a leading sportsman.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’ response. They noted that the advertisers had targeted their followers on Facebook and Twitter with their advertisement. The Code provides that in assessing compliance, particular attention is paid to the media by means of which the marketing communication is communicated. In this case the Committee accepted that while the majority of Paddy Power followers on Social Media and Twitter would probably be aware of their ‘edgy’ sense of humour, it was nevertheless inappropriate for advertisers to refer to vulnerable groups, in a manner that highlighted their current high profile difficulties, in marketing communications merely to attract attention. The Committee upheld the complaints under Sections 2.15, 2.16 and 2.18 of the Code.
The advertisement should not appear in the same form again.