Bookmaker Paddy Power has revealed that its latest controversial PR stunt, which appeared to show a message carved out of the Amazon rainforest, was a hoax.
An aerial photograph displaying the message "C'mon England PP", seemingly created by cutting down trees from the world's largest rainforest, caused a fierce backlash on social media after analysis indicated the picture was authentic.
Users called the bookmaker "disgusting", "disgraceful" and "brainless" on Twitter after versions of the picture from a number of angles emerged. While first posted on news aggregating site Reddit, it was tweeted from the official Paddy Power Twitter account shortly afterwards alongside messages such as "Run, forest run!" and "Get behind Roy's Boys!".
But the bookmaker said in a blog post on Sunday that the pictures were the result of a "complex bit of computer wizardry" and that "not a single tree was harmed in the Amazon".
Rather, Paddy Power said the marketing stunt was part of a month-long campaign to raise awareness for deforestation during the warm-up to the World Cup. It stated that Greenpeace had told the firm that an area the size of 122 football pitches is chopped down every 90 minutes in the Amazon.
While shocked at the figures the notorious bookmaker said it couldn't help adding its "own little mischievous twist", even playing up to the Twitter storm by quipping "we haven't cut down that much".
Paddy Power has been at the centre of a string of marketing controversies, the most recent being its advert offering bettors money back if Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was found not guilty of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in March.
While that advert amassed a record number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, the bookmaker's most recent gimmick was dubbed by one Twitter user as "the most idiotic PR stunt ever".