Inspired Marketing Insights – GoDaddy’s Super Bowl Advertising Fumble
You’ve probably heard the saying that there are some mistakes that you have to make yourself before you can learn a lesson.
That’s probably true when it comes to touching the stove for the first time (oh, that’s what hot means) but it’s not true when it comes to advertising faux pas like GoDaddy’s fumble with their Adorable Puppy Ad.
If you haven’t seen the video yet, it’s a 30-second jaunt but it’s worth the trip.
It’s been said that the goal of the ad was to make a jab at Budweiser’s ads involving the cute lost little puppy and tie it back to GoDaddy’s value proposition (that you can build gorgeous, effective websites for the cost of a Starbucks megafrapuccino).
The ad is edgy, clever, and lampoons a major advertising push of another member of the Super Bowl club.
So what failed? Why did GoDaddy’s shift from edgy, sexy ads result in an outpouring of grief that resulted in them pulling the $4.1 million dollar ad and scrambling four days before the big game to create a new one?
They were too impressed with themselves
GoDaddy’s advertising company succumbed to a problem that many national brands run into over time.
Their advertising team became too impressed with themselves and so, by extension, this infected GoDaddy as well.
And by becoming too impressed with themselves, they forgot key elements of how people related to their business.
Specifically, they forgot that:
- They’re searching for a true mass appeal – One of they biggest reasons that GoDaddy began moving away from the sexy, controversial ads was around concerns that they were alienating more conservative business owners. This search for mass appeal resulted in strange ads like Van Damm playing bongos.
- We’re not in the Super Bowl club – Their audiences aren’t members of the Super Bowl club. While marketers, advertisers, and people who appreciate cleverness for its own sake might enjoy the Budweiser tweaking, most people are left in the cold.
- Americans are dog people – A 2006 Gallup poll revealed that more Americans describe themselves as dog lovers. Pet ownership is a multi-billion dollar industry. Americans spent $47.7 billion on pets in 2010, growing at a steady rate annually. Seeing a loyal puppy callously sold off after an epic journey home left people with a very bad taste in their mouths.
Maybe they did it on purpose
GoDaddy are the kings of controversy. Their risqué ads are proof of that. They generated a lot of talk and a lot of heat for the company. The net result of which was a dramatically higher profile, more sales, and an opportunity for them to poke fun of themselves in the future.
Could it be that GoDaddy knew this would generate the kind of controversy it has? Did they expect that #NoDaddy would be a trending hash tag on Twitter, with people posting pictures of their pets decrying the ads?
GoDaddy is clearly an adherent of the philosophy that the only bad philosophy is your own obituary.
While they received a lot of grief from their inaugural Super Bowl ads with sexy models, in a very short time the controversy blew over and people accept it. Indeed, GoDaddy used the controversy as an opportunity to poke fun at themselves in future ads.
Americans are historically a forgiving people, especially when the offender seems contrite about their mistake and willing to take jabs at their mistake (or make the jokes themselves).
What lessons can be learned?
There are three lessons that stand out when considering any kind of creative advertising activity like a video or audio ad (media where the stories being told are often more compelling and result in more visceral reactions).
Lesson 1 – Always remember your audience.
Your audience is ultimately what matters.
All advertising struggles with two issues – standing out in the noise and being relevant to the people you want to turn into customers.
Make sure that you consider what your audience values. You need to have a fine sense for where people are flexible on their values and where they are resolute.
Lesson 2 – Deeply assess related issues.
It’s unlikely that GoDaddy had any sense that their ad would be connected to concerns that it promoted unethical or inhuman pet breeding practices – an issue that many vocal organizations have strong opinions on.
If you plan to be risqué and controversial, make sure you’ve got a handle on the related issues and how they play into your audience’s core beliefs.
Lesson 3 – Cleverness for its own sake is a vice.
We love being clever. Most people do. “That’s really clever” is a high compliment.
The problem is cleverness, like all good things, is good in moderation. It can become intoxicating to execute something exceptionally clever.
Cleverness, in excess, obscures messages and issues. In the pursuit of cleverness, it’s easy to miss the obvious.
Once you’re done, take a step back. Is your advertising really clever? Are you impressed with yourself?
If so, stop and consider. Make sure the cleverness doesn’t detract from the message or introduce unintended elements. Get outside opinions. Rip it apart.
What this means for Inspire clients?
Well, the good news is that we’re very clever (just ask us). The better news is that we’re very mindful of the risks of cleverness.
If you’re planning a television, radio, or other advertising campaign, give us a call.
We will make sure we talk you through your strategy and messaging to make sure you’re not taking any unnecessary risks.
And of course, the key word is unnecessary.
Here are questions to ask when getting started:
- Who is the target for my advertisement?
- What do they value?
- What is my message to them?
- How does my message tie back to their values?
- What does my message say about my company? About my attitude towards my audience?
All of these things are critical when you’re first evaluating your campaign.