A direct email to Paddy Power customers addressed each recipient by their first name and posed the following question:
“… Want a longer lasting erection?”
The body of the email referred to the following:
“Place 5 bets and get a free bet
Galway and Goodwood Special
Selected markets only. T&Cs apply
We’re giving Glorious Goodwood every day this week...
We think you’ll be hard pressed to find a better place to spend the rest of the week, as we’ll be serving up a pile of offers so good it would make even the most devoted celibate hump the nearest chair leg.
For starters on our menu of aphrodisiac accompaniments is money back if your horse finishes 2nd or 3rd in the 15:40 at Goodwood, followed by your main, place five bets of a fiver or more on racing and we’ll give you a free fiver bet for Galway or Goodwood and for dessert, we’ve got Paddy’s brand new Galway/Goodwood leaderboard where he’s giving away free bets and prizes every day this week. Sweet!”
The terms and conditions attached to the offer were also provided.
Two complaints were received in relation to the advertising. One complainant said that she considered the advertising to be offensive and highly inappropriate. She also objected to her name being linked directly with the marketing material.
The second complainant also considered the advertising to be offensive, cheap and crude. He said that while he was aware that Paddy Power tried to be witty in their marketing emails, he did not consider this particular email to be funny or clever and that the advertisers had crossed the line. He said that companies should not be allowed to circulate such material to their customers.
The advertisers said Paddy Power plc (“Paddy Power”) was one of the world’s most well-known sports betting and gaming brands. They had developed this brand awareness through their playful approach to marketing which underpinned their providing their customers with a fun, fair and friendly experience. It was, they said, the mischievous personality of the Paddy Power brand that continued to attract and entertain their customers by creating edgy and quirky campaigns that provided a humorous take on everyday events. While the humour of their marketing may sometimes be irreverent and mischievous, it was at all times intended to bring a smile or preferably a laugh to each of their customers.
While they may not always succeed in this regard it was never their intention to offend any of their customers with their marketing material. With this in mind, they said they consistently tried to strike a balance with all of their campaigns so that they maintained their brand identity, while at the same time not breaching the standards set out in the Code.
The advertisers said that the email complained of related to one of the most popular meetings in the British flat racing calendar i.e. the Goodwood event which, along with other well-known meetings, was a favourite with their customers. Customers who had signed up to receive emails from them had been the recipients of the email in question “[Customer Name], want a longer lasting erection?” They considered the phrase used to be the part of the layered humour in their Advertising. The subject line would have appeared in a recipient’s mailbox beside or underneath the Paddy Power e-mail address and their aim had been to create a little bit of humour with this subject line. The subject line of the advert was intended to play on the name “Goodwood”. The word play here between the use of the phrase “longer lasting erection” and the name of the event. Their email had been aimed at adults in a targeted and restricted medium. They said that while the advertising had contained double entendre and the humour may not be reserved, they did not consider it to be provocative or sexually overt.
In conclusion the advertisers said that while they regretted that the complainants had found their advertising offensive, it had never been their intention to cause offence or make light of a potentially sensitive topic. They had sent the mail to thousands of their customers, both male and female, all of whom had been age verified and none of these customers had unsubscribed from their mailing list. They considered that their advertising had not caused widespread offence.
Complaints not upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’ response. They noted that while the advertising had not caused widespread offence, some recipients of the emails found the content to be offensive and crude.
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 marketing communication was delivered by a targeted email campaign. Taking account of this the Committee did not consider that the marketing communication had breached Sections 2.15 or 2.19 of the Code.
No action was required in relation to the current marketing communication. The Committee, however, advised the advertisers that the advertising material would not be suitable for a wider audience.