ASA turns blind eye to Paddy Power ad complaints

A Paddy Power TV ad depicting a blind football player kicking a cat by mistake has escaped a ban from the advertising watchdog despite attracting more complaints than any other ad this year.

The TV ad was aired in April this year and created by Big Al’s Creative Emporium.

The ad, which formed part of Paddy’s Power promotional push ahead of the World Cup, triggered 1,091 complaints to the ASA in total.

This puts it ahead of the Department for Energy and Climate Change's campaign, which drew more than 900 complaints about its assertions about global warming which were partly upheld by the ASA in March. Last year's most complained about ad, 'There definitely is a God' by The Christian Party, received 1,204 objections.

All but 21 of the complaints accused the ad of encouraging or condoning cruelty to animals and 220 objected that it was offensive to blind people.

The TV ad showed a game of football being played by two teams of blindfolded men, using a ball which had a bell inside it.

A cat, wearing a bell on its collar, ran on to the pitch and ran across it, with its bell ringing.

One of the men was shown taking a kick and a thud and loud meow were heard, although no contact between the player and the cat was shown on screen.

The referee dropped his whistle in shock and the players stood around. A man in a suit appeared on the pitch, patted the shoulder of the player who had taken the kick and said "Paddy Power can't get Tiddles back, there's nothing we can do about that, but we can get you your money back with our money-back specials" and handed the player some banknotes.

The final voiceover said "Check'em out before you bet at Paddy Power" while the player taking the kick was shown again, in slow motion, with a faint meow in the background.Paddy Power, in its defence, said the ad was humorous and slapstick in nature and the humour occurred as a result of viewers anticipating the scene's absurd consequence.

Furthermore, it argued it was unrealistic that a cat would run on to a football field at the same time a ball was in play and while wearing a bell that sounded identical to the noise-making device in the ball.

To bolster its argument, Paddy Power provided a letter from the manager of the England Blind Football team, who stated that all the players featured were actually blind football players, many of whom had represented the England Blind Team.

It also claimed that the cat was not seen in any distress at any state and the ad did not show it being kicked or suffering any violence at any point during the ad.

The ASA said the ad was not shown in and around children's programmes and furthermore that the ad was surreal and improbable.

It concluded that it was unlikely to be seen by most viewers as a gratuitous or realistic portrayal of cruel treatment of an animal, or that it would encourage or condone cruelty to animals.

The ASA also ruled that it was unlikely to be seen as humiliating, stigmatising or undermining to blind people.

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