Cat Ladies and Tattoo Artists, GoDaddy Has Your Back in Global 'Go You' Campaign

Brand's First Effort Out of TBWA/Chiat/Day Highlights Small Biz Owners Around the World

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GoDaddy continues on the road to shedding its legacy of brash, boobs-first advertising with a new campaign that celebrates the small business owner, its first out of global agency TBWA/Chiat/Day New York.

The brand today bows its global "Go You" campaign, which puts the spotlight on small biz owners in new North American and global ads. The former stars Johanna, an eccentric cat lady who has moved from being a theatrical performer playing a kitty allergic to other felines to an entrepreneur with a big idea: hats for cats. Directed by MJZ's The Perlorian Brothers, a TV spot and another extended online version point to two sites, and Each cleverly showcases the various tools GoDaddy provides in the guise of Cat Lady's online storefront. Added bonus: the sites feature a tool that lets you too put one of Johanna's wares -- which include a captain's hat, a beanie and a sparkly crown -- on your own kitties.

Hat for your cat?
Hat for your cat? Credit: GoDaddy

Global ads will roll out in the coming weeks. Directed by Smuggler's Mark Molloy, the spots are cinematic and emotional, balancing lighthearted moments with more serious ones as they follow the trials and successes of the small biz owners in countries from India to Mexico to Brazil to London.

While markedly different in tone, the domestic and global ads address the same insights. "In all of our key markets around the world, when we started talking to small businesses -- the core of our business -- we asked them, 'What are the things that keep you up at night?'" said GoDaddy CMO Phil Bienert. "The reality is there are a lot of day-to-day things that you run into that make it tough to even know you're going to make it to the next day. In some cases it even comes from your own support network. Your friends and your family often say, 'You're crazy. It's never going to work.'"

Last November, the brand tapped TBWA to be its first-ever global agency and, in a bold move, decided to opt out of its historically go-to showcase, the Super Bowl, for the first time in 2016. These moves reflect the brand's decision to be more strategic and data-focused in its marketing as well as its goal to increase its brand awareness around the world.

"We've had some famous, very notable messaging in the past, and as we've evolved in the U.S. -- where 58% of small businesses are owned by women -- we've had advertising that reflects who the audience is, getting away from the tactics we've done [before], also letting the data tell us where to go next," said Mr. Bienert.

In the U.S., Mr. Bienert said the brand has well over 80% brand recognition. While arguably U.S. audiences may still associate GoDaddy with is risque ads featuring scantily clad, busty women, in recent years it's decidedly steered away from that approach. Last year, there was the brand's much-publicized ad about a lost puppy that CEO Blake Irving pulled from the Super Bowl after it drew fire from viewers. Prior to that, the brand's Super Bowl spot, created out of Deutsch, featured a machine engineer named Gwen who quit her job on the spot to start her dream business making puppets.

The new "Go You" cats spot continues on a similar path, but this time it promotes a fictional woman with an outlandish aspiration.

"Where we're going with this is another step in that transition with our messaging that fits, frankly, with a lot of other things we've been doing with our marketing domestically -- our decision to exit Nascar, our decision to not be in the Super Bowl," said Mr. Bienert. "The data was telling us we could be effective with our messaging, our media mix and our targeting in a different way."

On the international front, the challenges are different and varied, with the campaign reaching its 53 markets around the world. "Outside of the U.S. and Canada, where we're new and in some cases, a challenger brand, we don't have 17 years' heritage. That allows us to go into those markets and speak much more directly to small businesses with messaging that really is much more a direct reflection of their day-to-day lives."

"The challenge was to be aware of how each market has a different place in the learning curve and how to answer to that world," said TBWA/Chiat/Day New York Global Creative Director Adam Wohl. "What was vital that even though both campaigns have different sensibilities and points of view, that there be connective tissue for all of this" -- which led to the "Go You" idea. "GoDaddy is the go behind small business, and if you think you can do something, we know you can do it," he said.

A scene from the global GoDaddy work.
A scene from the global GoDaddy work.  Credit: GoDaddy

Mr. Wohl said the agency benefited from its broader network of shops to help inform the work. "We didn't want to subscribe to matching luggage for a global campaign. We had a playbook in every one of our markets on what was the right messaging, what were the right things to plug in for the creative." This played out in everything from location to whether or not the spot's idea challenged convention. For example, one ad focusing on India features a tattoo shop run by a young woman. "It's telling of the way that market is changing," he said.

The commercials are just the starting point of the campaign. "It's not centered around the 30-second TV spot," said Mr. Bienert. "Our approach is to engage somebody and then get them to want to engage with us somewhere else." Each domestic ad will have a long-form counterpart that also leads to a dedicated site. The stories of small businesses in the international ads will also play out longer in extended videos, each with its own social component.

"Whether it's our evolution domestically or our approach internationally, the point is we're creating messaging that speaks much more directly to the small business," Mr. Bienert said.

"GoDaddy spent a lot of time saying, 'Look at us, look at us,' and we wanted to change that to 'Look at what we can help facilitate,'" added Mr. Wohl.

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