Mess with puppies at your own peril during Super Bowl week, GoDaddy.com learned today. The company wound up vowing not to air its ad during the big game this Sunday after unveiling it this morning, to widespread disgust.
The ad, “Journey Home,” mocked Budweiser’s highly anticipated “Lost Dog” Super Bowl ad that the beer label has been teasing — which, in turn, is a sequel to its wildly popular 2014 Super Bowl ad “Puppy Love.”
In GoDaddy’s ad, an adorable golden retriever puppy named Buddy is traveling with his mom and sibling in a box in the back of a pickup truck, when he’s tossed out as the truck hits a bump. Buddy goes through quite a lot to make his way back to his home, where he’s scooped up by his human guardian who is thrilled he made it back to them — because she’d already sold him on her new website she set up using GoDaddy.com.
Faster than you can say, “WTF,” the ad’s YouTube clip had more than 800 comments, most trashing it; #godaddypuppy became a thing on Twitter, a Change.org petition had been launched calling on the company to kill the ad, and more than 42,000 sigs collected. Animal rescue orgs expressed contempt. Ditto PETA, which admitted it “liked” that the ad showed that anyone who sells dogs online is “a callous jerk.” “The sale of animals online and from pet stores and breeders should be roundly condemned,” the group said.
Tone-deaf reporters who’d been tickled by the ad had to do some fancy footwork in follow-up posts. AdWeek, which had called it a “fun tweak” of Budweiser, noted it “amusingly deflat(es) Bud’s balls a little bit” and asked the ad creator, in an interview published before the spot was unveiled, to promise it would not be “as sappy of an ending as Budweiser.” (The creator had noted, ominously, that the ad would be “playing with Super Bowl cliches” and “there seem to be five puppy ads every year, so we’re going to hang out and play in that area.”)
This afternoon, GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving threw in the towel:
Later in the day, Irving elaborated in a post on the company’s website headlined “We’re Listening, Message Received”:
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 our Chief Companion Officer and he lives permanently with one of our longtime employees.
Even so, some people weren’t finished being angry, as evidenced by comments attached to his extended mea culpa:
“Thank you – now get your advertising team over to the nearest rescue for one day so they can see what it’s truly like to be a lost animal. Then film that – I can guarantee there won’t be many laughs, but there will be a great many tears.”