After a crowd-pleasing Super Bowl debut the year before, HomeAway's return via Austin ad agency Vendor saw a bid for comic shock value provoke stronger reactions than intended.
HomeAway was back in the Super Bowl with "Test Baby," also known as "Smush," because the first outing drove so much web traffic and its early February air date coincided with the year's peak online bookings, CEO Brian Sharples told Enterpreneur before the game.
But despite efforts to make the spot's infant look obviously fake, emphasized by the words "test baby" both on the screen and in the voiceover, some people felt the spot's punchline trivialized violence towards children.
HomeAway’s CEO Brian Sharples released a long statement apologizing two days later, explaining the intent and noting that “we all make mistakes.” HomeAway had already removed the ad from TV -- at 1 a.m. after the initial airing -- and created a new version both for TV and online that showed the test baby doll being safely caught.
For another example of inadvertently controversial advertising at Super Bowl XLV, see Groupon's "Tibet."
Expedia acquired HomeAway for $3.9 billion in December 2015.
Director: Rocky Morton. Production company: MJZ. Line producer: Nell Jordon. Executive producer: Jeff Scruton. Executive producer: Marcia Deliberto.
Writers: Jeff Nixon, Joe Shands. Art director: Clark Evans. Producer: Monique Veillette. Director of client services: John Stephens. Strategic planner: James Martin.
Digital group: B-Reel. Editorial: Cut & Run. Editors: Eve Ashwell, Jon Grover. Producer: Angie Aguilera. Online/VFX: The Mill. Executive producer: Sue Troyan. Music/sound design: Beacon Street Music. Composers/partners: Andrew Feltenstein, Jon Nau.
QUARTER AIRED: Q3