Super Bowl

GoDaddy Taking a Less Bumpy Road to Super Bowl Ads

Scripts Avoid Early Rejection for First Time in Eight Big Games

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Is edgy Super Bowl advertiser GoDaddy finally walking the line?

GoDaddy, whose ads featuring scantily clad "GoDaddy girls" predictably set off alarms as each Super Bowl approaches, has done something more surprising with scripts for its ads in the 2012 game: It has won preliminary network approval.

A previous GoDaddy Super Bowl spot
A previous GoDaddy Super Bowl spot

It's the first time in eight consecutive Super Bowls that the Scottsdale, Ariz., provider of web hosting and domain names has not gotten its initial scripts turned down by the network hosting the game, said Barb Rechterman, CMO at GoDaddy.

Ms. Rechterman vowed the company's coming ads "are hot," but that the company has learned what networks will and won't accept. "We're starting to get a little more aware of what they're looking for and what will pass and what won't pass," Ms. Rechterman said.

That's partly because GoDaddy has become a broader TV advertiser and more familiar with network standards, according to Ms. Rechterman. "In earlier years, we weren't buying a lot of television at that point," she said. "We were buying the Super Bowl." Now the company understands that certain dialogue or flashes of skin can trigger network honchos' greatest fears.

GoDaddy has regularly tried to use its ads' rejections to get extra attention, of course, joining a large group of would-be Super Bowl advertisers that try to make the most of a "no" from networks. Some aren't really serious about running a commercial in the Super Bowl to begin with. GoDaddy always actually airs ads in the game -- but often concludes by pointing viewers to "unrated" versions posted online.

This year's early approval, however, suggests GoDaddy may be shifting away from relying on controversy for publicity.

Don't tell Ms. Rechterman that GoDaddy's ads will lack any of their usual bite. "We know how to take it right to the very edge of 'GoDaddyesque,'" she said. "We do get it up right to that point and then stop."

GoDaddy's commercial stance has not moved in sync with the general tone of the Super Bowl. After the 2004 game included Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction and a Budweiser ad starring a flatulent horse, marketers and networks became increasingly careful to avoid offense and to serve the biggest possible audience. Exceptions, such as the 2007 Snickers commercial showing two male auto mechanics inadvertently kissing and then worrying about their manliness, typically meet swift disapproval and get pulled from rotation.

GoDaddy debuted in the 2005 Super Bowl with a spot featuring GoDaddy spokeswoman "Nikki Capelli" popping a tank-top strap while testifying in Congress. The ad was supposed to run twice during the game, but Fox pulled the scheduled repeat after the NFL quickly complained. Since then GoDaddy has regularly tripped alarms at all the networks. In 2008, Fox rejected a GoDaddy spot that used "beaver" as a double entendre. NBC rejected a few early GoDaddy ad concepts in 2009, the last time NBC had the big game.

GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons has blogged about the ads and their rejections. To explain the "beaver" brouhaha, Mr. Parsons wrote: "In refusing the ad, Fox informed us that if we referred to the furry, damn building [sic] rodents or beavers by something other than 'beavers,' the ad would be approved. I felt if I made that change the ad wouldn't be quite the same."

GoDaddy has gotten fewer rejections in recent years, Ms. Rechterman said. After its strap-busting debut commercial on Fox, GoDaddy saw ABC scrap 13 potential Super Bowl executions, she said. It only got three rejections in before the 2010 Super Bowl and then only one before the 2011 game.

Despite getting script approvals for its 2012 Super Bowl ads, GoDaddy isn't home-free yet. NBC could turn down a spot if the filmed version includes elements that don't jibe with its standards and practices policies.

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