A TV advert centred around tranvestites has been pulled after a flood of viewer complaints. The advert shows the crowd at the prestigious horse race event in England, Cheltenham Festival, and invites viewers to “spot the stallions from the mares”.
Paddy Power – Ireland’s largest bookmaker – is well known for its controversial advertising campaigns, but it seems their newest advert has gone too far for many. Despite the commercial being preapproved by Clearcast the week before, hundreds of viewers have complained to the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) since the advert was screened. The bookies and the broadcaster, BSkyB, have been accused of inciting transphobia with the campaign. A crisis meeting was called and the advert has been suspended while an investigation is carried out.
Paddy Power are said to be ‘surprised and disappointed. They defended themselves by stating that they ‘exclusively cast members of the trans community in the various transgender roles in the commercial’. While the obvious response to that is ‘Does that make it less offensive?’ others question the validity of this statement, suggesting they are probably simply actors/actresses. Paddy Power have also attempted to highlight the innocent humour of the advert, yet clearly negate to acknowledge how aiming to seperate out transgender women from cisgender women is destructive and insulting to those struggling against the existing societal prejudices. The standard response that Paddy Power Customer Service have been issuing in response to complaints reads:
Thank you for contacting Paddy Power Customer Support.
Paddy Power has a long-held reputation of breaking the mould and doing things that are new and innovative for our customers and viewers. Our aim though is always to entertain, never to offend, and we apologise for any upset caused.
Surely in 2012, when so many of us are fighting to move beyond such cheap jibes and mockery, there’s nothing “new” or “innovative” about making jokes at the expense of the trans community?
There’s no denying that the advert has generated a lot of debate, and arguably achieved its aim by boosting the bookmakers notoriety, for good or for bad. Either way, the controversy has come at a particularly poor time, when this year’s LGBT History month in the UK is focused on eliminating homophobia in sport.
Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) have made their feelings on the advert very clear and are asking Paddy Power to withdraw the ad and apologise.