We almost, almost made it through to the Super Bowl this year without any advertisers sparking controversies.
That was until Tuesday night when GoDaddy announced, just hours after releasing its campaign on the “Today” show, that it was pulling the ad after animal lovers complained it made light and could endorse irresponsible dog breeding.
The domain name company’s ad opened with a cute Golden Retriever puppy — “Buddy” — riding on the back of a truck. NASCAR star Danica Fitzpatrick is at the wheel. Buddy seems fairly content, hanging out with two other fluffy pals.
But the ad then takes a twist when Buddy falls out of the vehicle and desperately tries to follow it — over train tracks and rainy conditions. He eventually catches up with his owner only to find out that he was on his way to being sold online. It’s quite an abrupt ending — but fairly funny for those with a dark sense of humour.
The ad had aimed to parody Budweiser’s much-adored “Puppy Love” Super Bowl commercial from last year’s big game (Hence calling the pup Buddy,) but animal campaigners did not see the funny side.
Here’s the ad (forgive the quality of this video. The original has been pulled from YouTube.)
A Change.org petition was quickly created calling for the brand to pull its “offensive” commercial. The petition claimed GoDaddy was “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 an animal.”
The petition garnered more than 42,000 supporters. Meanwhile, animal protection charity The SPCA posted a series of tweets using the hashtag #GoDaddyPuppy, denouncing the ad and explaining why buying a puppy online is likely irresponsible.
GoDaddy responded swiftly via Twitter and also on a post on its website, saying it had pulled the ad from YouTube.
The post, authored by GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving, reads:
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.
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. People increasingly know who we are, what we do and who we do it for. 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.
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 ourChief Companion Officer and he lives permanently with one of our longtime employees.
The fact that GoDaddy already had a backup ad up its sleeve may cause more cynical viewers to question whether the company had perhaps planned for the controversy — and the extra PR it brings — all along. Although some others might argue that with a 30-second spot costing $US4.5 million to air this year, it’s always a good idea to have a reserve.
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