Sportsbooks and online casinos aren’t afraid to mix in a little controversy when it comes to their ads. This is quite obvious from the recent video by Australian Sportsbet sending up the controversy surrounding Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson, who was disqualified for using steroids, to attract the attention of players to their brand new Android app.
The goal of these not-so-politically-correct ads is clear. By shocking users, companies hope to make a lasting impression, even if it is a slightly negative one. After all, somebody once said that there is no bad publicity. That said, companies do sometimes take it too far, and their advertising efforts have been known to backfire just slightly more than they expected.
The Climb campaign by Ladbrokes
Back in 2009, Ladbrokes, one of the best-known UK betting and online casino operators, launched a TV campaign featuring Nolbert Fernandez, a famous climber. During the one-minute ad, Nolbert talks about his friend Pedro, also a climber, who just couldn’t get enough excitement, so he was creating bigger and more difficult challenges for himself. The last one, which ended tragically, was when Pedro tried to climb a mountain with his hands tied behind his back and using only his chin.
Then, the ad suddenly switches to Nolbert’s laptop displaying Ladbrokes.com, and he explains that Pedro could have avoided this tragedy if he decided to play on Ladbrokes instead, satisfying his need for a thrill in this way.
The ad succeeded in what it was intended to do, as viewers were shocked, but the UK regulators weren’t impressed. It took just a single report for them to remove the ad for good, stating it encouraged reckless behavior.
The sad-funny part of this story isn’t the fact that the ad was controversial, but it didn’t really make much sense at all. But at least they managed to shock the audience.
Full Tilt’s Best Poker Face with Phil Ivey
There is no denying that Full Tilt had some of the best poker commercials while they were still going strong, but they have taken things a bit too far on occasion as well. One of their banned ads shows Phil Ivey, one of the best poker players alive, enter his home and walk up to the bedroom, only to find “Mrs. Ivey” astride another guy and screaming in ecstasy.
Of course, Ivey is shocked by what he sees, but his face doesn’t show it, as he keeps his poker face on. Even when another guy shirtless guy walks by him and tells him to get to the back of the line, his facial expression remains unchanged.
Unlike the first one, this ad is actually quite hilarious, but clearly someone took offence, so they had to ban it, but you be the judge.
Let’s Make Things More Interesting by Paddy Power
The Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has become somewhat notorious for their controversial ads, almost to the point where we can say it’s “their thing.” Its Let’s Make Things More Interesting campaign that was launched in 2001 was among the ones that created the most fuss.
The ad featured two old ladies trying to cross a road, with a car approaching, and bubbles displaying odds above their heads. There was really no additional explanation necessary with this one, but it quickly picked up a lot of heat, especially from UK charity Age Concern. After receiving more than 50 complaints in total, the UK Advertising Standards Authority decided to ban the ad.
I guess it could be called funny in a weird way, but it’s not hard to see why this one hit the muck and created some backlash.
TigerGaming “Dead Pool” ad
TigerGaming may not be as famous as some of the brands mentioned so far, but they really took things way too far with their Dead Pool ad. The commercial shows a dying man lying in the hospital bed. A doctor and a nurse enter the room the check up on the patient, and the doctor says his chances to make it through the night are just 3-1.
Relying on the doctor’s prediction, the nurse places a bet, saying “I’ll take that,” and then the rest of the patient’s friends and family wager some money as well. A few second later, the machines start beeping, and the man dies, but of course everybody’s excited about him dying as they won the bet.
The ad wraps up with: “You win some, you lose some.” That’s taking just a touch too far right there, Tiger.
William Hill being too sexy
William Hill’s ad for their new live casino was banned by the UK Advertising Standards Authority for essentially being “too sexy.” The 30-second ad starts by focusing on the piercing female eyes of a live dealer, with the camera quickly traveling across her chest to the roulette wheel.
Although the shot of the chest was as brief as it could possibly be, the ASA concluded too much focus was put on the “sensual parts,” which they deemed to be in breach of advertising regulations. Although William Hill tried to fight this decision, the ad was banned.
It is said that ‘sex sells’ but clearly in the UK you can push it too far.
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