Is Paddy Power’s Oscar Pistorius Stunt a Bridge Too Far?

By on Monday, March 3, 2014

Has Paddy Power gone too far with its latest Oscar Pistorius stunt, offering odds on the outcome of the South African sprinter’s murder trial?

Paddy Power Oscar

Paddy Power is well known for its topical, tongue in cheek stunts which get the national media fawning about their attention grabbing antics.

Recently they hijacked the Brits by sending two men dressed as Daft Punk to the Brits, only for them to drop their trousers to reveal Paddy Power branded underpants.

Oscar PistoriusThe strategy is low-brow but effective. PR stunts of this nature are a perfect way to reach their target audience of young, web savvy men.

But will this controversial stunt be a bridge too far and do more harm than good?

Probably not, if handled well. It will probably make them a lot of money.

Negative PR is a tried and tested strategy for certain brands that sell online. The idea is that by courting controversy, an ecommerce site can see a spike in branded organic search traffic and acquire high value SEO friendly links.

Ryanair is a classic example of a business which courts controversy.  The claim that they will sell porn on planes or charge for using the toilet are all previous uses of negative tactics to win branded search traffic and links.

At PR Agency One we have kept a close eye on the rise of Negative PR, and this tactic has not gone unnoticed. Google’s head of web spam, Matt Cutts, has said that the search engine will take action on businesses deliberately courting controversy for links. However, to date there has been little evidence of anyone being penalised as a result.  Proving it would be challenging.

Update (butting in from Rich): This change.org petition to get Paddy Power to remove their ad and donate to charities fighting domestic violence has been signed 700 times in the last 24 hours.

Update 2: The ASA has ordered the ad be publicly withdrawn in this statement. Those against Paddy Power’s approach will claim a moral victory, but the reality here is that there will have been Guinnesses into the early hours at PPHQ. The only way to win against campaigns you really don’t like is to ignore them, but anger is one of the most powerfully motivating emotions and the offended can’t help but act out their role.

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