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Two Commercials, Two Reactions

Prior to the Super Bowl this year several companies released the ads they had produced to run during the big game. Two ads were similar in theme but garnered opposite reactions from viewers. If you are up to date on anything marketing then you have heard about the GoDaddy ad controversy and probably watched the ad yourself and compared it to Budweiser’s ad. If you are not up to date, that’s OK too.

In GoDaddy’s add a golden lab is knocked out of the back of a truck but eventually finds his way home only to be sold. In Budweiser’s commercial the lost dog also finds his way home but is met by a reception of horses and a farmer who lovingly welcomes the lost pet.

Of course, many people say that GoDaddy released the ad only to gain extra attention beyond what the ad could ever do during the Super Bowl. We’ve heard of this before and it is quite a gamble for a company because the back-lash can be severe and could end up hurting a company. The eventual outcome of this controversy remains to be seen, but GoDaddy has never shied away from controversial advertising and some say the company was built on it. I guess if GoDaddy fires its ad agency then we’ll have a clue as to the intention.

Below are the two ads for comparison:



Ad Background

Reportedly Budweiser filmed their commercial in December and in January announced that their ad would involve a lost dog. Mid-month they released three pictures of parts of their ad.  GoDaddy’s ad had two scenes “eerily” reminiscent of those pictures. If GoDaddy’s commercial was based on the bits of information released by the beer company it speaks something for their ad agency, Barton F. Graf, who would have had literally days and hours to develop and produce a top quality commercial, a feat some other agencies can only dream of. (You’ve seen more of Barton F. Graf’s work if you’ve seen some of Little Caesars “5 minute hot’ n ready” commercials.)


Let’s dissect the two ads and see why they work and don’t work. First I completely get it that the GoDaddy ad is not intended to end in a warm fuzzy-feely way. It is meant to be a response to Budweiser’s commercial that does end that way. That is the reason GoDaddy’s ad worked so great.

Emotion and Lighting

The two commercials start out differently invoking diverse emotional feelings in the viewers. In Budweiser’s ad the dog is playful and funny by emerging from a pile of hay and we all love that playfulness and become instant friends with this puppy. GoDaddy’s dog gets bounced out of the truck immediately, but by doing that the commercial invokes a sad and sympathetic response.

As the dogs find their way back home the lighting changes to blue filters accompanied by rain and a storm. At this point I think almost all of us would be feeling sorry for the dogs. Budweiser is able to coax some emotion out of their dog and make it look so forlorn! With an additional thirty seconds built into their ad, the beer company adds in some drama with a wolf and the blue, darker lighting keeps the viewers feelings sympathetic . However when the horses come to the rescue, the music, which to this point had been slow and somber, takes an upbeat turn. In the next scene the horses are bringing the wayward pet home and the lighting becomes brighter. The storm clouds are beginning to clear in the background, however lighting never really gets bright thus retaining the emotion we started with as the last scene ends where the commercial started- in the barn with the horse.

GoDaddy lets the viewer hear slower, orchestrated music reminiscent of some epic movie about a lost dog returning home. Their production company has added numerous background sound effects such as train and car horns to add unseen drama to their shorter commercial. As the dog returns to the farm he is met by an excited female accented with bright lighting and an upswell in the music complete with a drumroll. 

All of the sympathetic feelings abruptly end in GoDaddy’s commercial as the female’s voice goes from excited to almost sadistic as she informs the dog that he is sold. One hardly notices at this point that the music has suddenly become drawn out and long, slow notes of the stringed instruments take over for a few seconds to upswell once more as the actor loudly calls to, “Ship ‘em out!”


While Budweiser’s ad continues the warm tinglies all the way to the end, GoDaddy’s commercial is designed to unexpectedly end the emotions. I completely get the humor of the web giant’s thought process when the two ads are put together. However in this age of political correctness the ad was destined to be a failure. Had GoDaddy ended the ad just slightly different, say a cute young girl- the dog’s new owner- running up and excitedly picking up the dog, it would have not garnered the backlash, but it would also have been completely lost in the roar of all the other ads and this article and hundreds of others would never have been written. And, GoDaddy would have lost all of that free publicity.

Playing the Game

Ads that are designed to bring attention to a company through controversy can easily backfire, yet if designed correctly and put forth in a controlled environment can actually help a company. Probably very few people moved their websites from GoDaddy’s server over this ad, but it remains to be seen if they were able to pick up enough additional business to cover the cost.  Both ads were effective at creating emotion (not hard to do when it involves a puppy). Both ads portrayed their company within their respective cultures. And both ads got a lot of attention. Job well done!


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