GoDaddy pulled its Super Bowl ad on Tuesday amid social media outrage. This time, the Internet domain name registrar created a commercial meant to mock the Budweiser puppy reunion series. But Buddy, the GoDaddy ad's puppy, ends his quest home only to be sold online. Puppy fans started calling the brand "inhumane" and supportive of puppy mills, among other adjectives.
It may just be coincidental that the brand that's come to be synonymous with sexist tech advertising decided to pull this controversial ad a few months after it filed for an initial public offering (IPO).
Or it may not.
In Tuesday's blog post titled "We're Listening, Message Received," GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving writes, "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."
Either way, GoDaddy is responding to tweets like this:
— Roxanne Hawn (@roxannehawn) January 28, 2015
In the meantime, Irving's post and @GoDaddy tweets are letting consumers know the golden retriever puppy not only lives with a longtime employee, but he's been the company's "Chief Companion Officer" since Jan. 14. (See the photo of the company leadership, at right.)
"Equally at home in the customer care center," reads Buddy's GoDaddy profile, "on the office putting green or visiting business owners and employees to help them chill, Buddy's expertise in making 'ruff" days a little better continues to garner accolades including, 'Who's a good boy?' "
Just setting up my Twitter. *ruff!* #myfirstTweet
— Buddy (@GoDaddyBuddy) January 13, 2015
What went wrong here?
1. GoDaddy Forgot That Bad Publicity Could Be Bad for Business. The brand was previously known for sexism, which it seemed to pull away from after showing supermodel Bar Refaeli kiss a less attractive computer programmer in "smart meets sexy" in 2013.
The private company filed for a $100 million IPO in June 2014 and GoDaddy's female objectification tendencies are among the first topics of conversation:
- In a November 2014 post titled "GoDaddy IPO Is One to Avoid in 2015," Kyle Anderson writes in Money Morning, "Despite its huge user base, GoDaddy is best known for its marketing. Ads featuring scantily clad models and celebrities like NASCAR driver Danica Patrick are frequently run during high-profile events. The company runs a Super Bowl commercial almost every year."
- In June 2014, Jose Pagliery writes for CNNMoney: "GoDaddy has filed plans for a $100 million initial public offering of its stock. But don't cue the celebratory racy Danica Patrick video just yet … GoDaddy hasn't made a profit since 2009."
- On Tuesday, Irving blogs: "We've made a tremendous amount of progress over the past two years, advancing the GoDaddy brand as a company that cares a great deal about small business and is in their corner to help them succeed."
2. Learn From History. GoDaddy tried. Founder Bob Parsons stepped down as executive chairman in June 2014, when the company filed for an IPO, reports Forbes. But Parsons, speaking at the Inc. 5000 conference in October 2014, boasted of the sexist ads that GoDaddy had been running since 2005, Inc. reports. Parsons, who remains on the GoDaddy board, says the company needs to have commercials consumers will discuss.
"The company listed its 'controversial' commercials as a risk to its business when it declared its plans to go public in June," writes Maria Aspan for Inc. "It said in a regulatory filing that if GoDaddy does not successfully 'reposition' its brand, 'our business and operating results could be adversely affected.' "
3. Hire a Diverse Workforce. Hearing "yes" all the time may feel great for some. But for marketers who want to appeal to consumers, someone has to be there who will say, "That's a bad idea, and here's why. Why don't we do this instead?" Maybe Buddy's homecoming could've been greeted with the online purchase of some treats? There's an e-commerce business GoDaddy could've helped.
What else could GoDaddy have done?
Please respond in the comments section below.