Priceless Surprise with Paddy Power’s Latest PR Stunt

In Cross Channel Marketing, General/Industry Newsby Marius Badenhorst

The Irish Bookmarkers, Paddy Power, is well known for its controversial/risky advertising, and their latest stunt stole the show at the Brits red carpet. Two representatives attended the event fully kitted out as French techno act Daft Punk, and made it right up to the photo arrivals area without a ticket or an invite. After mingling with pop royalty, they surprised onlookers by whipping off their trousers (Chippendale-style) to reveal a fetching pair of Paddy Power’s famous Lucky Pants.

Their strategy appears to be paying off. In 2013, the Chief Executive of Paddy Power, Patrick Kennedy, announced growth of 20% in group net revenues from January 1st to May 12th 2013. Part of this strong rise was due to the 29% increase from online revenues – as the bookmaker saw a higher percentage of its client base move to placing bets via their mobile phones or online. This new mobile betting rose by around 112% year on year as smartphones continued to grow in usage.

All in all, not a bad performance, so how does Paddy Power continue to do well when some of its marketing is at best risky and at worst offensive?

For instance, if you’ve ever placed a bet you’ll know how true this is. If the odds are low, the payout is low. If the odds are high, there’s a greater payout…but the chances of getting that big payout are much slimmer.

However, in advertising, the story has a different outcome. If you play it safe, you’ll probably make some money, but it’s the risk-takers who are more likely to come out on top again and again and again. In effect, betting on the long shot is much more likely to bring home the bacon.

Expectations of a “Safe” Campaign

Safe campaigns have a slight variation on a campaign that has already been released; i.e. it got no complaints, sales figures didn’t drop, no one was hurt, it came in under budget and everyone was happy.

Results are the same as the previous quarter, and the sales curve doesn’t go up, nor does it drop. The product or service is making some money. The ROI is ok. It’s all ok, in fact. No one gets fired, no one gets angry, and it’s all good, boring and predictable. The best that can happen with a safe campaign is that you maintain the status quo. So why bother?

Expectations of a “Risky” Campaign

Yes, risky campaigns will leave everyone sweating and protesting in the hallways. It may cost more (although sometimes, the big ideas cost less). It will take more effort to sell the idea. But screw it, it’s time to take a risk.

And what happens is astonishing. People love it, and people hate it, but certainly not enough to stop buying your product. There are people who love it, and share it. The ads go viral, and it generates its own PR across the internet. Suddenly, everyone is talking about your product, sales go through the roof and everyone is happy. Of course, sales may just stay the same.

But the WORST that can happen with a risky campaign is that you get complaints and get talked about in the news. But even that gets your brand talked about at the dinner table. We are all so worried about being liked that we become invisible. Research has shown that 89% of ads go unnoticed, 7% are disliked, and only 3% are liked – but that top 10% is where you want to be, whether you’re popular or not.

The biggest mistake any business can make is trying to be just like their competitor. That’s wrong! Be different, be outrageous, get people talking and advertise when others won’t.

For example, during the Ryder Cup, Paddy Power ran a campaign that took to the sky and delivered some provocative sky tweets during the tournament.


Sometimes, it would seem that they do overstep the mark – an advert featuring transgendered women was stopped after there were in excess of 400 complaints. Another campaign centred on “second jobs for subs” that ran in outdoor sites around a number of Premier League grounds. In essence it poked fun at certain players who had been in the media spotlight for not performing at their best. The ad suggested that Fernando Torres, the Chelsea striker, could become a burger flipper, whilst Andrei Arshavin, who played for Arsenal at the time of the ad, could find work as a toilet cleaner.

Although in theory these ads all contain relatively minor ribbing, the question remains as to whether this is the right way to market your company in the long run. When Kennedy was asked outright if the business would be pulling back from their controversial marketing line, he answered with an unequivocal no.

It’s a lot less risky to take a risk than it is to rest on your laurels. Think it over!

About the Author

Marius Badenhorst