Paddy Power’s airline ad crashes


The company’s ad betting on which airline will go bust next has been banned in Britain.

Hedge funds can bet on it, gamblers can visit their local bookmakers, but an advertisement featuring odds on which airline might go under next? That’s a different story.

Irish online gambling firm Paddy Power has been scolded by Britain’s Advertising Standards Agency for running this very type of ad. “Booked a flight? Don’t sweat, insure with Paddy Power,” it read in the British press beginning in September. The ad then featured a list of 14 airlines and the odds on them going bust, including 4-to-1 on Spanair, 33-to-1 on JetBlue, 25-to-1 on United Airlines and 100-to-1 on British Airways, EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair.

But Paddy Power says the campaign, which it set up in response to “many requests from [bettors]” after airlines Zoom and Futura went into administration over the summer, is simply a barometer of public opinion. “We are not expressing our opinion, just that of the public. It’s no different from a questionnaire,” said Paddy Power spokesman Darren Haines.

The ASA, which has banned the ad, says it “denigrated the airlines listed because it implied they might go into administration,” but Haines believes that argument is a nonstarter.

He said that the company had included “favorites” to go bust in the advert and household names, rather than “a tiny,” unheard-of airline. “It was a no-brainer, really.”

It’s not the first time that Paddy Power’s ads have displeased advertising regulators. Back in 2005, an ad that featured Jesus and the Apostles gambling at Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper was pulled because of a public outcry, which led the Irish Advertising Standards Authority to launch an investigation.

The “Next Airline to go Bust?” campaign was hugely popular, with bets having one of the highest uptakes of any of their markets during September. Haines said that the company planned to continue with offering its gamblers credit crunch-related bets, though it has started to do some positive ones as well. Its latest offering: a bet on the best-performing bank in 2009 by share price increase. The odds on HSBC are 11-to-10; Lloyds 4-to-1; and Barclays 6-to-1.