Do I think assassination is funny?

Have you seen the commercial for the French horse betting website, PMU? Two police officers are stationed at an outdoor public event. One of the officers bets he can twirl his gun three times, cowboy style. In the process he fires the gun by accident, and a bullet ricochets wildly through the crowd until hitting its last random target: President John F. Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy scrambles into the back of the car as the bumbling officer points to the book depository as the source of the gunfire.

The ad closes with the question “You like to bet?”

Tasteless? Unquestionably.

Funny? You be the judge. (We like dark humor, so we laughed. And cringed.)

The ad may have been aimed at a younger audience, one far removed from that fateful day in Dallas. And perhaps PMU aimed to poke fun at the many wild conspiracy theories surrounding the events of Nov. 22, 1963, rather than intending to dishonor the memory of our murdered president or offend the Kennedy family.

But is the assassination of a president, of any nation, ever fair game for comedic exploitation in an international ad campaign? Did PMU’s bookmakers risk too much by laying their bets on this one?

“Pushing the envelope” is certainly not new in the advertising world. Extremes get attention. No matter how vulgar or insensitive an ad, its defenders will call it “edgy” and those troubled by it will reveal themselves to be insufficiently hip. At the risk of sounding stiff and risk averse, we think the Kennedy concept should’ve stayed a joke in the brainstorming meetings and never made it to the pitch session. If PMU’s gamble doesn’t succeed, this commercial could do far worse than offend potential customers—it could undermine the classy reputation of horseracing itself. 

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