Paddypower redux: Private Eye

Private Eye is, of course, excellent. It’s a satirical and investigative and gossipy political mag in the UK that I’ve bought for years because it’s irresistible, like an upmarket version of Heat for political / media geeks.

It has columns on lots of different things: advertising, railways, TV, books, the media, politics and so on. It also runs a column on advertising, Ad Nauseam, on advertising and shenanigans in the industry. I guess it’s written by someone within – or previously within – the industry because whoever writes it certainly gets something of an inside track.

I was interested to read the following about Paddy Power and its recent run of ads, clearly intending to be controversial for the Hell of it, that culminated in the Gregos Traitorelli ad. I disliked this ad because it’s so obviously intended to push the envelope of what’s acceptable – along with all its other recent ads.

Lots of people have been leaving lots of witless ‘get a sense of humour mate’ comments that shows that they can’t be arsed to actually think about the issues or they’re too stupid to. The issue for me is this: deliberately courting controversy by flirting with offensive issues like race, class, animal cruelty and gender issues. I find it vaguely pathetic, in the way that I find it pathetic that largely middle-class journos write inflammatory stuff in the knowledge that thick readers get off an some casual racism or homophobia with a healthy side serving of big tits.

It plays people for being stupid. It works the system (in this case what’s considered acceptable in the world of advertising) simply to gain a flash of notoriety. The Gregos Traitorelli ad is flirting with race issues to make you put a ten-pound bet on Balotelli scoring a goal.

But don’t just take my word for it. Read what Private Eye has to say on the subject – and ask yourself is this is all quite as innocent as you might think.

Several companies have used an advertising strategy that involves goading regulators with risque ads to receive free publicity. Other advertisers end to loathe the self-styled mavericks, because they prove that adland’s cosy self-regulatory system lacks teeth, thus threatening the whole edifice.

First French Connection was the bad boy, followed by Ryanair. Now it would appear bookmaker Paddy Power is taking up the mantle.

In late 2010 it ran a TV ad featuring blind footballers kicking a cat . When that received more complaints than any other ad that year, the free publicity penny seems to have dropped. Since then the cheeky Irish pranksters have run topical ads featuring the footballer Luis Suarez after he received an eight-match ban for racial abuse; a spot entitled Lady’s Day asking viewers to pick out the ‘stallions’ from the ‘mares’ at a race day; and an internet-only ad featuring a man shooting ‘chavs’ with a tranquiliser gun at the Cheltenham Festival.

Its latest spot features a man who placed a bet against his own team renaming himself Gregos Traitorelli, relocating to Greece and supporting a team called Athletico Kebab. You might expect this kind of stuff from Paddy Power by now, but its agency, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, should know better