UPDATE: At 6:30 pm ET on Tuesday, Go Daddy decided not to air the ad. The ad is now a private video on YouTube. Go Daddy CEO Blake Irving said: “At the end of the day, our purpose at GoDaddy is to help small businesses around the world build a successful online presence. We hoped our ad would increase awareness of that cause. However, we underestimated the emotional response. And we heard that loud and clear.” Go Daddy still plans to advertise in the Super Bowl, just with a different commercial.
Animal lovers are not having any of Go Daddy’s Super Bowl commercial that features an adorable Golden Retriever puppy named Buddy.
The 30-second commercial, called Journey Home, starts innocently enough: Buddy falls out of a pick-up truck and goes on an epic journey to find his way home. Once he gets there, his owners are understandably happy for his safe return. And this is where things get rough: the owners are pleased to see him because he is being shipped out to a new owner who purchased the pup on a website made with Go Daddy.
Go Daddy has never shied away from controversy, especially with its Super Bowl ads, and many viewers were disturbed that the commercial seemed to make light of puppy mills. The backlash against the ad has been swift, and there are already several hashtags on Twitter linked with the controversy, including #BanPuppyMills, #AdoptDontShop and #BoycottGoDaddy, according to a report by The Domains.
Go Daddy seems to be addressing the controversy with individual users on Twitter, assuring them that the company adopted Buddy, donates to no kill shelters and animal organizations, and strongly believes in the humane adoption of dogs. It has also directed concerned viewers to a PSA on its YouTube channel that features long-time Go Daddy spokeswoman Danica Patrick. In the video posted last week, Patrick is seen holding Buddy and urges viewers to adopt animals from local shelters or rescue organizations.
This is Go Daddy’s 11th consecutive year advertising in the Super Bowl. According to Ad Age, the company worked with New York agency Barton F. Graf 9000 on the ad that is supposed to parody a Budweiser ad.
A petition on Change.org is urging Go Daddy to remove its Super Bowl commercial and already has more than 22,000 supporters.
It’s naïve to assume that Go Daddy didn’t think about the potential outcome of the commercial, and it seems unlikely that the company is prepared to remove the ad, particularly considering it developed a PSA on animal adoption as part of the campaign. Also, it’s not cheap to produce a Super Bowl commercial.
Two weeks before the video was available, Go Daddy chief marketing officer told USA Today that the commercial had a “serious twist that goes well beyond a cute puppy finding its way home.”
The company turned to its fans on social media to name the puppy and has been posting pictures of him on its Facebook page. According to USA Today, Go Daddy’s research on its small business customers showed that they use social media as a diversion from day-to-day work so the social aspect of the campaign was calculated. The company symbolically named Buddy its “Chief Companion Officer.”
Buddy even has his own Twitter account, although he also seems to be laying low on the controversy. His last tweet was Jan. 15 and he only has 161 followers.
While the commercial is a departure from Go Daddy’s past, the backlash is reminiscent of the earlier days when Go Daddy produced its Super Bowl commercials in-house and relied heavily on classic “sex sells” approach in advertising.