GoDaddy, Victoria's Secret among Super Bowl advertisers treading lightly with ads this year

Technology Associated Press

Super Bowl advertisers are being careful not to offend.

Continue Reading Below

GoDaddy decided not to run an ad that showed a dog being sold online so as not to offend dog lovers. The Victoria's Secret angels are fully clothed in its teaser spot, at least, although they reveal more in their actual Super Bowl ad. And an anti-domestic abuse commercial will have a high profile-spot during the game after a year of domestic violence scandals in the NFL.

Advertisers have to find a balance between grabbing people's attention and not going too far to shock or offend a broad base of more than 110 million viewers. They want to be sure to make the estimated $4.5 million they're spending for a 30-second Super Bowl ad worth it. This year, that seems to mean erring on the side of caution.

"Companies are being more prudent," said MediaPost columnist Barbara LIppert. "It's also a very weird atmosphere with all the coverage about deflated balls and domestic abuse. Maybe advertisers want to be a little more careful in that climate."

It's a far cry from the dot.com commercial attempts in 2000, when an E(asterisk)Trade ad showed a monkey in a garage and touted the fact that the company had just wasted $2 million dollars, but MediaPost's Lippert says it makes sense to be restrained.

Even GoDaddy, which made its name with racy Super Bowl spots since it began advertising 11 years ago, has been moving away from being edgy; last year one of its Super Bowl ads focused on a woman running a small business.

Continue Reading Below

This year, they promised a warm and fuzzy ad featuring a puppy, spoofing a Budweiser ad from last year that also featured a puppy. But the twist at the end of GoDaddy's spot showed the puppy was being sold online via a web site created with Godaddy.com. After it debuted early, a social media storm erupted, with pet lovers finding the ad offensive. GoDaddy said late Tuesday it wouldn't air the ad.

"At the end of the day, our purpose at GoDaddy is to help small businesses around the world build a successful online presence," said CEO Blake Irving. "We underestimated the emotional response." GoDaddy says it has another ad it plans to run.

Wix.com, which helps people build web sites, has taken a lesson from GoDaddy. Instead of debuting as a Super Bowl advertiser with a racy spot like GoDaddy did when it was a new advertiser, Wixom.com went for non-edgy laughs with an ad that shows retired football players coming up with funny fictional businesses. Brett Favre, for instance, invents a charcuteries business called "Favre and Carve").

Other companies appear to be playing it safer too by not focusing so much on bare skin and sophomoric humor. A Victoria's Secret 90-second teaser ad showed supermodels fully dressed as football players. The actual Super Bowl ad shows the models dressed in Victoria's Secret lingerie, though.

And the NFL is airing a public service announcement from NoMore, a coalition of anti-domestic abuse organizations. The ad depicts a chilling 911 call from a battered woman to demonstrate the terror of domestic abuse.