You wouldn’t likely think of the web hosting and domain name registration market as one where companies would stir up much controversy, or even be a household name, for that matter. But GoDaddy, a privately-held firm based in Scottsdale, Arizona, is all that and more.
Its longtime CEO Bob Parsons is a polarizing figure; anger spread in 2011 when pictures surfaced of him on a trip to Africa to hunt elephants.
But the strongest complaints have come in response to GoDaddy’s marketing, which has long relied on extremely risqué TV spots in order to advertise its services.
Parsons describes his company’s advertising as “fun, edgy, and a bit inappropriate” but detractors go a bit further and call it sexist, demeaning and offensive.
GoDaddy advertisements have been an annual fixture in the Super Bowl since 2005, a move unheard of for a company in its market. For many years the company has also sponsored a team of “GoDaddy Girls,” including WWE diva Candice Michelle, IndyCar driver Danica Patrick and celebrity personal trainer Jillian Michaels. Most recently, Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli was added to the mix in this year’s Super Bowl spot.
The commercials typically follow a simple formula: scantily-clad GoDaddy girls are in some sexually suggestive situation, someone manages to mention the core services of domain names and website builders, and then, just as things are heating up, the commercial abruptly ends and viewers are told to visit GoDaddy.com to “see what happens next” or view “the unrated version.”
One major goal of this racy advertising campaign is to simply generate buzz. With this, the company has undoubtedly been successful. For example, GoDaddy’s 2013 Super Bowl ad was the most discussed with over 255,000 social mentions, according to Networked Insights.
Of course, much of this buzz is negative. Northland Digital, echoing the points of many others, said that “in addition to being gross, sexist, raunchy, and tasteless, the advertisement is also pointless and unfunny.” And since the Internet-related branch of IT has a comparatively high percentage of women, “they’ve just offended half of their market base.”
So does this style of ad actually translate into increased sales? One would think that the Super Bowl viewers who log on solely to see the GoDaddy girls in “unrated” videos won’t shift gears and start buying up tons of domain names.
But according to Mashable, the Monday following Super Bowl Sunday was GoDaddy’s biggest sales day in company history, with 10,000 brand-new customers signing up. Hosting sales were especially strong, as the company reported a 45% increase.
Why do you think the ads have generated so many sales even when they prompt some to organize boycotts of the company? And do you think GoDaddy is wrong for relying on these sexual ads, not quality service, in order to drive business?
Andrew Walsh is the owner and editor of Social Web Q and A. He is a freelance writer, academic librarian and web entrepreneur. Check out his book Savvy for the Social Web.