Paddy Power's shameful World Cup ad crossed the line of decency in advertising
A view from Dave Henderson

Paddy Power's shameful World Cup ad crossed the line of decency in advertising

Using an image of a slumped bear and attempt a 'joke' about it dying is morally bankrupt, Atomic's creative partner says.

The derailment of the new train timetables have meant a less than calm start to my days over the last two weeks. But the collective efforts of Govia Thameslink pale in comparison to the churning sense of outrage I felt on the 7.32 to Kings Cross this morning, as I picked up my free copy of the Metro. And stared in open mouthed disbelief at the cover wrap ad from a betting company.

I don’t often get worked up about an ad, but this recent effort on behalf of Paddy Power left me feeling not just sad, but completely dumbstruck…for two main reasons. 

Firstly who on earth approved such a dreadful pun? The headline was "England til I dye", above an image of a polar bear with a retouched St Georges Cross and the familiar PP logo of the brand.

One of my previous bosses would visibly shake if confronted with such an offensive misuse of headlines.

Inside there were even more puns. You only ever see them on ads written by people who aren’t copywriters, who often work in PR companies or such. And confusingly, why a polar bear? The Russian bear is always portrayed as brown…everyone knows that surely? Writing this bad this is nothing less than a crime in my eyes. 

"Paddy Power has previously done some brilliant, and quite outrageous work. But here’s the rub. The creative always stayed just inside the line, with an entertaining and bawdy wit and style"

Secondly, and even more importantly, it makes me nauseous that anyone, at the agency, at the client, or the publication thought it was funny to feature a stock shot of a clearly distressed animal.

Even if the shots were taken on a scientific or welfare based expedition, using an image of a slumped bear that was either being tranquilised, or worse, and attempt a ‘joke’ about it dying. is morally bankrupt – plain and simple.

Thank God the World Cup isn’t in Korea this year…imagine the animal based "fun" they could have had with that one.

Paddy Power has previously done some brilliant, and quite outrageous work. But here’s the rub. The creative always stayed just inside the line, with an entertaining and bawdy wit and style. The skywriting hijack of the Ryder Cup is still my favourite stunt of all time. I’m all for pushing creative boundaries and sometimes making mistakes in the process.

But this latest work doesn’t just cross the line of what’s decent in advertising, it clumsily barges through basic human decency and I hope some people are hanging their heads in shame this morning.

Dave Henderson is creative partner at Atomic London