GoDaddy really wants you to know it respects women now

By James Robinson , written on February 3, 2014

From The News Desk

Domain-registration kingpin GoDaddy’s vision of making it happen for its customers used to be overly porny yuks about three nerds having the power to force two unsuspecting women to shower together.

But as of yesterday's Super Bowl, the company really wants you to know that it respects women. After years of angling its annual ad slot toward teenage boys, now it wants to be the company that makes dreams come true in a more PG, family friendly way.

Yes, this, the company whose previous Super Bowl entries have included a sloppy make out session between Israeli model Bar Refaeli and a chubby computer geek, and who packed a suggestive massage, a striptease and wet t-shirt scene all into two minutes in 2010.

One of GoDaddy’s big ads yesterday featured actor John Turturro walking into the home of Gwen Dean, a 36-year old machine engineer and aspiring puppeteer chosen from a shortlist of 100 people following a two-month selection process.

“Let’s talk about dreams and the people that choose to pursue them,” Turturro says to the camera. He then introduces us to Gwen who has a message for her boss Ted watching at home.

“I quit,” Gwen says. “Ciao, baby,” she says with a blue puppet on her arm. Apparently this was no fake, she was actually quitting. “Build Your Dream” flashes under the GoDaddy logo.

The bean dip was still warm when GoDaddy began pushing this as a transformative moment for the company, boasting in a media release that the company’s Super Bowl commercials focused on how GoDaddy helps small businesses succeed and featured women in the ad who were “smart, successful business owners.”

In another, which featured race car driver Danica Patrick -- one of its celebrity stalwarts over the years -- all muscled up through special effects, running with a pack of mammoth, ostensibly steroid-fueled bodybuilders without shirts. They descend on a tanning salon owned and operated by a woman, who sees the gaggle of beef collecting outside her storefront window, grabs a spray tanner, and says, "It's go time."

Granted, GoDaddy’s hard pivot does turn the company into objectively more tasteful and respectful territory. But for a company that has kept itself in the spotlight by embracing the lowest common denominator at the expense of being liked, the middle of the road might turn out to be a harder area to navigate.

By turning toward the sentimental, GoDaddy’s ads got lost in the noise yesterday. The Super Bowl is a hyperactive mess of corporate messaging. Being shocking at least came with a guarantee of being talked about.

If you were measuring the feel goods, GoDaddy’s job quitting ad stunt got wallopped yesterday by companies that have been perfecting going sentimental for years. Coca-Cola’s emotive montage set to a multilingual ‘America the Beautiful’ was easy on the eye and provocative in its pro-immigration stance. Budweiser’s depiction of an unlikely friendship between a puppy and a Clydesdale was nonsensical but effective and ten times as many Americans will recall it in six months time.

According to Blab, a Seattle-based PR agency that tracked response toward Super Bowl ads across social media, blogs and news sites, GoDaddy wasn’t in the top 10 most discussed brands after the game. Budweiser, with its puppy-horse combo, came in at number one.

“GoDaddy is all about helping people to easily start, confidently grow and successfully run their own ventures,” GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving commented in the release sent to media yesterday. Gwen was the “go getter who wants to turn their passion into a thriving business” that the company embodies, he added.

They’re nice thoughts from Irving, but they’re also generic. GoDaddy shed its crassness, but it might’ve sanded off its personality yesterday too.

Till now, GoDaddy’s sex-first, NASCAR loving corporate image came down from controversial founder, elephant-killer and former CEO Bob Parsons.

But as has been written about here before, as divisive as Parsons and the image of his company was, it worked. There was magic in Parsons’ chaos. The company did a lot of business while everyone was rolling their eyes. Today, GoDaddy has over $1 billion in revenues, 12 million customers and manages 55 million domain names.

So who are GoDaddy now, if they’re not the metaphorical chesty blonde, flirting with the men at the car show? Changing up its image invites backsliding in visibility, especially for a company that has staked so much on marquee events like the Super Bowl and staying on top by brute force of name recognition.

If we all stop paying attention, can GoDaddy still prosper?