What were you thinking, GoDaddy?
That’s a trick question. They obviously weren’t thinking.
And disproving the adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, GoDaddy pulled its upcoming Super Bowl ad on Tuesday after a torrent of online protests decrying its apparent support of puppy mills.
GoDaddy released its upcoming Super Bowl ad on Tuesday morning, intended as a spoof of Budweiser’s Lost Dog entry, showing a puppy getting bumped out of the back of a pickup truck, then finding his long and dangerous way back home. GoDaddy, a web domain seller famous for controversial Super Bowl ads, puts its typical dark spin on the tale, depicting the “owner” as callous private breeder, who promptly informs the dismayed pup that he’s been sold online. NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, a long-time GoDaddy spokesperson, appears in the ad as the transport driver who then takes the puppy away.
The reaction to the ad, created by Barton F. Graf 9000, was swift and furious, with statements from PETA and other animal-rights advocates denouncing it as promoting puppy mills, and a social-media uprising taking the form of an online petition to have the ad removed, including the Twitter hashtag #GoDaddyPuppy.
“As someone who feels incredibly strong about animal rights, I am extremely offended by this commercial,” Helena Yurcho said in a statement accompanying the petition, which received more than 42,000 signatures. “Whether or not this was meant to be satirical, it’s offensive. Essentially, Go Daddy is 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 to someone who cannot adequately care for the animal. Animal rights are no laughing matter and to portray them as such is cruel and irresponsible.”
GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving quickly got the message, and by Tuesday afternoon, he took to Twitter to announce that GoDaddy had pulled the ad for Sunday’s game.
Thank you @animalrescuers for the candid feedback. What should have been a fun and funny ad clearly missed the mark and we will not air it.
— Blake Irving (@Blakei) January 27, 2015
The ad was simultaneously pulled from YouTube, although it remains available online here and there, including at our sister site, DogChannel.com.
PETA director Colleen O’Brien captured much of the sentiment about the ad in a statement to Adweek.
“Go Daddy’s now-yanked commercial showed that anyone who sells a dog online is a callous jerk,” O’Brien said. “PETA liked that about the ad. The sale of animals online and from pet stores and breeders should be roundly condemned, and it was today. GoDaddy did the right thing by swiftly promoting adoption. PETA’s message is that when you buy a dog from a pet store or a breeder, a dog in an animal shelter dies.”
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About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for MLB.com and sportswriter for the Hartford Courant who covered the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team (Huskies!) and the Boston Red Sox, Jeff has authored two books on the UConn women: Bird at the Buzzer (2011) and Unrivaled (2015). He lives with his wife, Susan, and their rescue pup, Rocky, an Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix from a foster home in Tennessee, hence the name Rocky (as in Rocky Top).