Commentary

Is GoDaddy Up To Its Old Tricks?

It was meant to be a send-up of a “heartwarming” Budweiser lost-puppy spot that we’ll all see in full on Sunday but it outraged so many people so quickly after its preview on the “Today” show yesterday that GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving soon tweeted a hasty retreat from the other side of the line: “Thank you @animalrescuers for the candid feedback. What should have been a fun and funny ad clearly missed the mark and we will not air it.”

The 30-second spot “follows the arduous travels of a puppy that makes its way home after being separated from its owners,” writes Ryan Parker in the Los Angeles Times. “At the end of the ad, the puppy arrives, and its owners are joyous — not because they loved and missed their pet but rather because they had just sold the animal online and could now deliver it.” 

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“Look! It's Buddy! I'm so glad you made it home,” a woman exclaims as the puppy licks her face, “because I just sold you on this website I built with GoDaddy.”

In introducing the spot yesterday, “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie points out that GoDaddy is “known for its edgy Super Bowl ads,” and tell us the company “admits up front, ‘This is not your typical Hallmark-style ad.’” Guthrie then observes: “It’s sure to get people talking.” 

It did. Right after we catch a glimpse of longtime GoDaddy spokeswoman Danica Patrick at the wheel of a van taking the puppy to owners unknown, the camera cuts back to the anchor desk and news anchor Natalie Morales offers, “Me no likey. It’s so mean.” 

A lot of people no likey, as it turned out.

A Change.org petition started by Helena Yurcho of Berwick, Pa., quickly drew more than 42,000 signatures.

“We underestimated the emotional response. And we heard that loud and clear,” CEO Irving later said in a message announcing that the company was pulling the ad. 

But it isn’t just an emotional issue, animal rights activists would maintain. 

“Whether or not this was meant to be satirical, it's offensive,” Yurcho argued. “Essentially, Go Daddy is encouraging private breeding/puppy mills while shelter animals wait patiently for their forever homes or worse — to be euthanized. They are also encouraging purchasing an animal online; the animal could be sold to someone who runs a fighting ring, someone who abuses animals, or to someone who cannot adequately care for the animal.”

GoDaddy has, of course, courted controversy — and the free publicity that comes with it — in Super Bowls past. 

“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,” writes Ben Poplon on Today.com. “Its ad last year featured a woman quitting her job live on national television. Another had an extended kiss between model Bar Refaeli and a schlubby actor.”

Not that there aren’t observers out there who believe that yesterday’s spot was just another “stunt.” 

“GoDaddy seems to have put one over on an easily-duped populace, telling consumers it has decided to pull a Super Bowl ad it has been touting for weeks because of complaints it has received about the way it portrays a puppy at the center of the effort,” writes Variety’s Brian Steinberg. “But it feels like this was something the company had planned all along.”

CEO Irving ended his post yesterday with a warm-and-cuddly tidbit: “Finally, rest assured, Buddy came to us from a reputable and loving breeder in California. He’s now part of the GoDaddy family as our Chief Companion Officer and he lives permanently with one of our longtime employees.” 

No word yet on when and if the company will appoint a Chief Good Taste Officer.

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