In future years, the public may not remember GoDaddy.com--but reporters will bear in mind the long manipulation of a story, some seven weeks in the making, that started in late November 2005.
There's no problem with being manipulated--but one hopes it will be done with finesse and eloquence and, of course, sexual intrigue. All I got was a girl with major cones in a tight T-shirt.
TV marketers understand the marketing zeitgeist of the Super Bowl. Paying $2.5 million for a 30-second message, marketing executives always seek some extra Super Bowl publicity spin--and hopefully a little controversy.
Typically the best any marketer can hope for in this vein is one pre-game story, the Super Bowl spot itself, and then a post-Super Bowl story, featuring a panel of USA Today experts/consumers who put a score on the entertainment performance level of the company's ad.
GoDaddy.com took all this to new heights--figuring out how to spin 14 different storylines from the same $2.5 million. Here's the bottom line: This works out to some $170,000 for each failed commercial version. Considering that perhaps five to 20 news stories were written each time a spot was rejected, that's an even better price tag.
Late on Wednesday, the company had a press conference to say its 13th, and presumably final, attempt, had failed to get approval. Feb. 1 was a day after the supposed Tuesday deadline for creative approval. Then on Thursday morning, an announcement came that ABC had, at last, approved the spot.
Many versions of the ads were, of course, sexed up. There's a girl with big cans in a T-shirt getting wet giving a car wash. In others, the same girl's T-shirt straps could be seen snapping off. Many versions riffed off GoDaddy's reputation for risque ads--like the one that appeared last year when Fox had the game.
GoDaddy.com founder and chairman Bob Parsons, noted for his blogs about the Super Bowl spot, and the detailed history on the company's Web site about its Super Bowl commercial struggles, denies these moves were a publicity stunt.
Just today, that seems true. But for the last seven weeks, GoDaddy.com was playing in another marketing league.
With this kind of success, GoDaddy.com's efforts should become the model for Super Bowl marketing, I predict. Next year, Pepsi, American Express, Pizza Hut and General Motors will urge their creatives to dream up the most provocative commercials they can. In the fall, CBS will reject weeks after weeks of spots from scores of potential advertisers, all while journalists write story after story.
By the time February rolls around, journalists, consumers, marketing and media executives will be so exhausted, viewers will not only avoid the next Super Bowl game, but, for the first time in years, they won't even watch the commercials.
And it'll still get a 44 rating.