Friday, January 30, 2009

Sex sells commodity IT

Sunday is the Super Bowl, and so, among other things, it’s time for another tasteless Go Daddy ad.

Since 2005, Go Daddy has been running Super Bowl ads involving scantily clad women, and this year is no exception. Since the first ad, Go Daddy has relied on claims of “censorship” to draw attention to its ads, but this year the argument didn’t work: two ads were cleared by NBC: “baseball” and “shower.” Instead,the publicity stunt is faux-suspense over which ad will air in the $3 million slot. (If it wanted, it could have paid another $3 million for one of the two unclaimed 60-second spots).

Of course, that assumes that viewers even know what’s being advertised. Of the two, the product plug in “baseball” is more effective, with spokesperson Danica Patrick delivering the pitch near the climax of her conflict with two bimbos. The spot also harkens back to the original 2005 ad theme of stodgy congresisonal hearing, and Parsons has been bragging about his “uncut” version. The (broadcast) ad is the one I would choose.

The “shower” ad shows less but promises more. It’s a lowbrow ad, akin to Carl’s Jr. or the most crass beer ad. Worse yet, the plug is mumbled at the beginning, before the viewer knows what is going on. If Go Daddy happens to choose this one (unlikely), it must have decided that titillation will generate more traffic to the website.

As with previous years, Go Daddy has been doing a good job
of generating click-throughs, using the TV ad (and free publicity) to draw viewers to see the “uncensored” spots

"Viewers have come to expect our edgy Internet-Only versions on Super Bowl Sunday and this year's online video really pushes the envelope," said Go Daddy CEO and Founder Bob Parsons.
Once they see the online adds, viewers also see a postroll ad with a $3 off coupon for a domain purchase. Having a product that can be purchased over the Internet puts Go Daddy in an ideal position to translate Super Bowl exposure into action and sales.

As in other businesses, sex sells. Parsons is consciously using sex to sell commodity IT services — domain name registration — where one provider is as good as the other.

I’ve been a Go Daddy customer since the summer of 2005, not because of the sex, but because they were one of the cheapest providers out there and a friend had good luck with them. The same low prices that enable cybersquatters has allowed me to carry 15-30 domains during this time, such as,, and Go Daddy has been edging up its prices, so it’s probably time to find another provider for these commodity services.

I’m not so clear why Patrick, the former Indy 500 rookie of the year, is lending her body to a campaign that goes beyond Maria Sharapova, let alone a Chris Evert. I guess Patrick has decided she needs the exposure in her career (and the endorsement money) while she can still get it. As any starlet would probably advise her, in today’s society you need to exploit your looks and celebrity while you can. However, the normal pattern is to work your way up to classier roles: think Nicole Kidman and Chanel No. 5.

For Go Daddy, the continuing use of the same ad theme for five years suggests a lack of creativity on Parsons’ part — being “edgy” has become safe. From using the same approach, the (privately-held) Go Daddy should be feeling diminishing returns by now. Among those who procure domain name services, it has a firm position as the mindshare and marketshare leader. Unlike an Apple or Yahoo, its website creation tools are for techies and not consumers, so there isn’t much upside there.

Perhaps, as with other celebrity CEOs (Mark Cuban or Lee Iacocoa come to mind) Parsons has grown addicted to the limelight and is using publicity stunts to stay there. Perhaps he really he believes the meaning of the Go Daddy brand is controversy, sensational, “edgy” and Bob Parsons. (How is resolving a name to an IP address “edgy”? Never mind.)

Or perhaps like other men pushing 60, the ex-Marine enjoys being surrounded by buxom bimbos. I’ve never met the man, so I can’t say.

1 comment:

Kenneth M. Kambara said...

Anecdotally, GoDaddy seems to be popular with real estate agents needing a "low level" CMS with challenging usability. In terms of their target customers, I'm not 100% sure they're "on code" with these ads, save for generating traffic to the website.

I'm not sure on Patrick's decision here. Her uncertainty as being a "star" in racing? It's one thing to be Sharapova {when she plays} & quite another to be Kournikova, back in the day.

I think you're spot on about the publicity angle. If they're smart, all of this is being tied in with an integrated market communications strategy, but I'm not getting that sense. They are getting eyeballs, as noted here.