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ASA raps Paddy Power over gambling dwarf ad

'Irresponsible', declares watchdog

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered online gambling outfit Paddy Power "not to repeat" the approach it adopted in a newspaper ad which showed a "short man" in the back of stretch limo flanked by women under the title "Who says you can't make money being short?"

The offending advertisement, which appeared in the Times, attracted one complaint which challenged "whether the ad irresponsibly linked gambling to seduction, sexual success, and enhanced attractiveness".

The ASA itself questioned "whether the ad breached the [CAP] Code by implying gambling could improve self-image or self-esteem or was a way to gain control, superiority, recognition, or admiration".

In response to the charges that it had breached clauses 2.2 (Social responsibility), 57.4(f) (Gambling and personal success), and 57.4(h) (Gambling and sexual success) of the code, Paddy Power said "they had not intend to breach the CAP Code and they did not believe the ad did so".

The ASA continues: "They said the ad targeted a very specific group of people in the financial spread betting community who would be aware of the connotations of 'going' or 'being' short. They said this was a term used to describe a particular financial spread betting activity.

"They said the ad was a play on words and that they believed it would be understood in the financial spread betting fraternity as a whimsical and far-fetched interpretation of the term. They said the ad was not intended to imply that financial spread betting could improve self-image, or self-control, or that it was a way to gain control, superiority, recognition or admiration."

The ASA disagreed, and in ruling the ad had breached CAP Code clauses 2.2 and 57.4(h), said: "We considered that the ad was likely to be seen to play on a traditional stereotype of male attractiveness that was sometimes prejudiced against shorter men and to suggest that desirable female companionship was attainable for short men too through the enhanced attractiveness provided by wealth (acquired by gambling)."

It added: "We concluded that, by showing the man flanked by two glamorous women in the context of a direct reference to making money through financial spread betting, the ad irresponsibly linked gambling with sexual success and enhanced attractiveness."

Regarding the breach of clauses 2.2 and 57.4(f), the ASA ruled: "We noted the ad was set in a stretch limousine and that the man was enjoying a glass of champagne and a cigar in the company of two scantily clad and attractive women. We considered that stretch limousines, champagne, cigars, and beautiful women were popularly associated with male success, and that the ad invited readers to recognise and admire the success of the man portrayed in it.

"We also noted that the man was short, and that this was stereotypically seen as a disadvantage for a man in terms of his sexual attractiveness. We considered that the ad suggested that the man's self-image or self esteem, which could have been hampered by his stature, had been transformed by his financial success. We concluded the ad suggested this man's 'shortcoming' had been overcome by the wealth he had acquired through gambling and therefore that the ad implied gambling was a way to improve self-esteem or gain recognition or admiration. We concluded the ad was irresponsible."

Paddy Power said that "in the light of the ASA's communication with them, they had withdrawn the ad from all UK media outlets". ®

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