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Paddy Power’s current advert asks viewers to spot the transgendered ladies among the crowd of racing fans at the Cheltenham Festival, including one coming out of the gents toilets. The Advertising Standards Authority has launched an investigation after it received more than 350 complaints in the first 24 hours after the advertisement was broadcast on Sky Sports on Saturday.
Paddy Power was accused of inciting transphobia with a pitch that promises to make the festival’s Ladies’ Day "even more exciting by adding some beautiful transgendered ladies: spot the stallions from the mares." I spoke to Paddy Power's customer service team this morning who not surprisingly gave me the party line that this was just "a bit of mild mannered for in the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival."
That simply doesn't wash, and neither does PP's justification that it is all right because "several people from the UK transgendered community are cast in the ad, and it was also cleared by Clearcast (which pre-vets TV adverts before screening).”
Certainly the response seems to have caught Paddy Power a bit on the hop and when I spoke to them they acknowledged that they had received hundreds of complaints themselves from people offended by the advert.
This is not the first time that BP's adverts have been the subject of controversy. In 2010 their commercial that showed blind footballers playing football with a cat attracted more complaints to the ASA than any other. And last May they featured Imogen Thomas in a campaign to use the publicity surrounding the Ryan Giggs affair.
The new advert also features strongly on the cheltenhamfestival.net website, where all 66 comments have condemned the advertisement. Stephen Glenn wrote, "We have a government that is working to get homophobia and transphobia out of sport. Yet we have a betting company linking this gross advert to the name of the Cheltenham Festival."
There seems to be quite a widespread misunderstanding that www.cheltenhamfestival.net is a site endorsed by Cheltenham Racecourse itself. It's to be hoped that Cheltenham makes its own view absolutely clear with a statement on its own website and to PP by cancelling any pitches they have at the Festival unless they withdraw the advert.
In the meantime it's down to individual customers to demonstrate to Paddy Power that they have gone too far beyond the pale. I'm off to close my account now.