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Crossing the line to generate business

We’ve had the odd mention of a certain green-themed bookmaker on previous Alchemis blogs, like here.

They have a well-earned reputation for some quite audacious guerrilla marketing stunts and fairly near the knuckle ad campaigns.

However, I suspect a lot of people will think they crossed the line with the Oscar Pistorius “money back if he walks” advert that they ran in The Sun. The fact that over 5,500 people in the UK have made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority at the time of writing this blog and the fact that the ASA has publicly said Paddy Power has brought UK advertising into disrepute has most likely been a double-edged sword for the brand.

Firstly, it has generated a huge amount of free publicity for the bookmaker, bringing it to the attention of a much wider audience than the readership of The Sun. Some people would have thought it was in poor taste, some people would have thought it was funny. If I was a betting man I would say that it probably generated a bit more new business on the back of it from a few people who may not otherwise have seen it or heard about it. But is betting on a murder trial really going to bring in more punters than a sporting event? Not really a great barometer for the mindset of the British public if it does, is it?

Secondly, I don’t think it has done the brand any favours. The play on words “if he walks” is one thing, but let’s not forget that whether he is guilty or not, somebody was killed in pretty tragic circumstances.

But it was in another country so that doesn’t count does it?

Can you imagine the kind of public anger that would be directed at Paddy Power if it had been a case a bit closer to home – like the retrial for the Stephen Lawrence murder a few years ago?

We’ve all heard the old line that “no publicity is bad publicity” but equally we know that this is definitely not the case. The stories of “bankers bonuses” following the last recession damaging a re-nationalised bank’s already shattered reputation would be a good case in point.

The other brand that won’t be smelling of roses (not that it ever did) is the Sun.

Never a publication to shy away from controversy, they’ve done their fair share of alienating readers in the past. We’re pretty much at the quarter of a century mark since it was boycotted by thousands of readers in Liverpool over their coverage of the Hillsborough disaster who will still never pick up a copy to this day.

Whilst they didn’t create the ad, they certainly profited from it and it doesn’t paint them in a great light.

It could be argued that both brands are appealing to their own demographics and that Paddy Power punters and Sun readers will be far less sensitive to this marketing campaign to drive sales. That may well be true – but in an age of truly global communications, when the shit hits the fan it travels further and faster than ever before. Paddy Power branded umbrellas and Sun branded disinfectant wipes anyone?

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