Every year millions of Americans look forward to the Super Bowl – game-day food, Puppy Bowl favorites, hilarious commercials… oh, and some kind of game with men in overly tight pants. (Kidding! Obviously, the pants can never be too tight.) For those who don’t exactly put the “game” in game-day, the notorious 60-second ad spots usually garner the most attention. This year, some companies are ramping up their pre-Super Bowl excitement by taking to social media, but not every brand is getting the kind of attention they’d hoped for.
GoDaddy tried to engage consumers with their online debut of a new personality Buddy, an adorable Lab puppy who would be replacing the web host’s usual cast of barely-clad women, but the campaign took an abrupt turn for the worse. Although the ad was an apparent parody of Budweiser’s “Lost Dog” commercials, it was quickly evident that American consumers don’t play around when it comes to our fury friends.
Animal Rights activists and dog lovers everywhere became outraged after GoDaddy previewed the commercial, revealing that the precious pup finds his way home only to be sold by his owner through a website created by GoDaddy. The reaction wasn’t quite what they web hosting company anticipated. It seemed that GoDaddy didn’t consider that most dogs sold online go to puppy mills. So, rather than scoring some laughs, they scored a petition. Change.org collected over 40,000 online signatures in favor of banning the commercial within a matter of hours. Helena Yurcho of chang.org writes
“Whether or not this was meant to be satirical, it’s offensive. Essentially, GoDaddy 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 someone who cannot adequately care for the animal.”
Twitter was also flooded with backlash using the hash tag, #GoDaddyPuppy.
GoDaddy’s efforts for pregame publicity instantly became a crisis situation. Instead of digging a deeper whole at the risk of bruising their ego, the company made the wise decision to pull the commercial. GoDaddy admitted their mistake, issuing this statement on their website:
“This morning we previewed GoDaddy’s Super Bowl spot on a popular talk show, and shortly after a controversy started to swirl about Buddy, our puppy, being sold online. The responses were emotional and direct. Many people urged us not to run the ad…. the net result? We are pulling the ad from the Super Bowl. You’ll still see us in the Big Game this year, and we hope it makes you laugh. 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’s been adopted permanently by one of our longtime employees.”
So is bad publicity really better than no publicity for the web hosting company? My vote is no. While GoDaddy did a great job of responding to the uproar, their brand equity will likely take a hit. It was a great attempt at targeting larger audiences (because who doesn’t love puppies, right?), but in their attempt to gain attention they overlooked the power of social media and instant communication.
Wives and girlfriends everywhere were probably looking forward to not slapping their husbands during GoDaddy’s 60-second spot this year, but on the bright side, they will have the adorable (and safe) Lost Dog of the Budweiser ads to look forward to.
Budweiser: 1, GoDaddy: 0
Samantha Kirby, Spring 2015 Account Coordinator
Samantha (Sammy) Kirby is an account coordinator for NinerNation Relations. She currently serves as Global Marketing Communications Intern for Momentive Performance Materials Inc. Prior to Momentive, Sammy completed a Communications Internship with Facilities Management at UNC Charlotte. Her other public relations experience includes PRSSA leadership, Outreach Committee member with the UNC Charlotte Writing Resources Center and Newsletter Committee member for the University Honors Program. Her skills include copywriting, editing, media relations and event planning.