Tech & society

#noDaddy : GoDaddy SuperBowl ads give crass a bad name

Just six days before the 49th SuperBowl, GoDaddy revealed its heavily teased “puppy ad” in an exclusive on the NBC Today Show. (An “ad” on a “news” show means free advertising. Well played, GoDaddy.)

The response was immediate and negative.

Initial protests focused on the need to adopt pets from shelters and the horrors of puppy mills. Reputable breeders do not sell online.

My initial horror was different.

It centered on the content of the ad.

  • Putting dogs in the back of a truck so that they will slide around is not humane or safe. And where I live (and a handful of other states), it’s illegal. As it is in California, where the commercial was shot.
  • If a puppy were to be tossed out the back of a truck like Buddy was in the commercial, the puppy would likely be hurt.
  • The woman representing GoDaddy’s small business customer sold Buddy when she didn’t know where he was! (“I’m so glad you made it home. Because I just sold you on this website I built with GoDaddy.”) Can we say “unethical” and “breeder without a conscience”?

Moreover, according to GoDaddy statements, the company reached out through digital social networks to find a name for the puppy. But Buddy is the name of the puppy in the 2014 Budweiser SuperBowl commercial. That ad also featured rural life, a puppy returning “home” and a good ole farming stereotype, the red barn. Plus, Budweiser is featuring a puppy again in 2015. There are no coincidences.

GoDaddy’s response: calculated or responsible?

Although CEO Blake Irving announced on Twitter that the company would pull the ad, the website’s news release section hadn’t caught on as of midnight Tuesday. His statement is on the blog; good luck finding it from the home page.

GoDaddy news releases
Nothing about pulling the commercial in news releases; midnight Pacific.

At least one analyst smells a rat.

So maybe GoDaddy felt an ad about an ill-treated puppy simply wouldn’t cut the mustard. Or maybe – just maybe – it’s maximizing a media that has fully embraced positing and airing Super Bowl ad teasers as newsworthy, rather than what the acts really are – pretenses for free publicity. If this is indeed a childish ploy, it shouldn’t necessarily be rewarded with attention or applause.

Another says the GoDaddy snafu looks like “a skillful marketing play, rather than an actual misstep“.

[T]here’s the rapid-yet-polished nature of Irving’s response, which not only manages to incorporate a plug about how GoDaddy’s purpose is to champion small businesses, but also includes the touching detail that Buddy, the dog featured in the commercial, is “now part of the GoDaddy family as our Chief Companion Officer.” (Buddy even has a Twitter account.)

Have to burst Ms. Laura Entis’ bubble: GoDaddy made that announcement on January 14. And the Twitter account? Set up January 12. Both logical marketing moves as part of pre-SuperBowl activity.

As much as I dislike GoDaddy as a company, I prefer to think charitably about former Microsoft exec Blake Irving, who is now GoDaddy’s CEO, rather than impugn his behavior via unsubstantiated speculation.

Maybe, just maybe, GoDaddy management actually listened to stock PR counsel regarding crisis communication. You know, anticipate what can go wrong — before it does — and prepare responses while not facing the pressure of the clock ticking away in Internet time.

But where is their advertising agency, Barton F. Graf 9000 (@BartonFGraf9000)? That account exec and creative team should be getting a virtual tongue lashing every bit as robust as that directed at GoDaddy.


Their last tweet, made Tuesday morning, was a retweet.

The Barton F. Graf 9000 Twitter account (GoDaddy ad agency) is marked by a cone of silence.

Nothing new, move along.

I was stunned at how media framed this company’s history of demeaning advertisements. I shouldn’t be — it means that their PR folks did a damn good job of getting “reporters” to regurgitate corporate talking points.

Fun tweak of Budweiser. ~ Tim Nudd, AdWeek
Fun tweak?
The sub-head suggests someone at AdWeek has a warped sense of humor. Like GoDaddy.

Go Daddy pokes fun at cheesy-but-adorable commercials featuring puppies – you know, like those Budweiser ads. ~

Pokes fun? Dear Ms. Grossman: satire and parody are hard. This ain’t it.

Previously known for its risqué spots involving women in various stages of comic undress, the domain name registration company has had a change of approach lately. ~ Ben Popken,

Comic undress? What’s funny about scantily clad women prancing about in a 30-second commercial?

GoDaddy has developed a reputation for Super Bowl commercials that toe the line for what is and what isn’t politically correct. ~ Adam Stites,

Politically correct? The ads have historically been demeaning to women. That’s not politically correct. It’s sexist.

GoDaddy has a history of tasteless SuperBowl commercials. From Business Insider in 2012:

GoDaddy — which prides itself in being sexy, edgy, and an inch away from crossing the line — has bought a Super Bowl spot every year since 2005… In 2006, ABC rejected GoDaddy’s commercials 13 times before approving one.

The company’s first SuperBowl commercial that ran in 2005 “spoofed” the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” of the prior year’s game. See a sampling from the intervening eight years.

Some people – and organizations – show maturity after a 10-year period.

And some don’t.


If you must watch …

Here’s a bootleg copy on YouTube or an official-ish copy on AdWeek.


  1. Updated to add video links
  2. Updated to add AdWeek sub-head
  3. Re-ordered, pulled GoDaddy response into its own section and added observation about crisis communication prep
  4. Removed reference to Host Gator’s opportunistic tweet/promotion.

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

9 replies on “#noDaddy : GoDaddy SuperBowl ads give crass a bad name”

Great article! The whole stunt made me upset for so many reasons, not just because of the poor puppy, but because of the incredible short sightedness of the company and it’s glib response to the uproar their callous video caused. GoDaddy supports the websites of puppy brokers who sell dogs from puppy millers and backyard breeders. They referred to puppies as “products,” in their original replies to protests about their Buddy commercial on Facebook. This retraction from their CEO is not an apology. He is just sorry that his cynically amusing commercial had such an “emotional” response from all of the pesky rescue people and dog lovers. He tells us not to worry, that the cute puppy now has a home with someone in his company, so all emotional animal lovers should be glad. The company had already, along with the commercial, produced a PSA about rescue as an appeasement in anticipation of objections from the rescue community. They knew that some would have a problem with the commercial, but they really did not grasp the problem revealed by this campaign. The problem is that they actually do support and promote businesses that sell puppies online, and they have spent lots of creative time and dollars making a commercial that shows that they have no understanding of why selling animals online is a bad idea. They may like cute puppies, but they have little or no consciousness of the heinous nature of the puppy broker businesses they earn money from and promote. Their judgement is permanently suspect What other questionable clients do they serve? And their judgement as advertisers is also off. This was an epic fail, not a case of merely “missing the mark,” as their CEO has characterized it in this retraction. The idea that it was meant to bomb gives them too much credit in one hand, but if it is true, I doubt they understood how their callous attitude toward animal sales would be received.
After this debacle, GoDaddy will never be a viable option for hosting any animal friendly website until they remove those puppy brokers from their client list, and make a PSA for large scale distribution about the puppy mill industry, and the irresponsible people who sell their “products” on websites that companies like GoDaddy create for them.

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