GoDaddy pulls controversial Super Bowl XLIX puppy spot

The start GoDaddy’s ill-fated commercial titled “Journey Home.”

Better late than never.

When ad agency gets an assignment to produce a Super Bowl commercial, their primary responsibility is to make the best spot possible: One that gets people talking and is more memorable than the game itself. Plus, the stakes don’t get much higher than each 30-second spot coming with a $4.5 million price tag.

But a commercial by GoDaddy, titled “Journey Home,” got it all wrong.

The spot started with a Golden Retriever puppy named Buddy, who is bumped from the back of a pickup truck. Alone in unfamiliar territory, Buddy navigates hazardous terrain, endures harsh weather, and finally arrives at his destination — a parody of Budweiser’s “puppy” spots — where he’s eagerly greeted by his apparent owner.

Buddy makes his way home only to become the butt-end of a joke that isn’t funny.

But the worst was yet to come. It turns out the puppy’s owner was glad to see Buddy because the puppy was sold using GoDaddy. The spot ends with Buddy on the truck (with NASCAR driver Danica Patrick behind the wheel) headed to his new owner.

NASCAR driver Danica Patrick makes a cameo as the van driver who takes Buddy to his new home.

The ad created a firestorm, and to GoDaddy’s credit, the company took action. Late Tuesday afternoon, the official video of the spot went private and GoDaddy issued the following statement:

GoDaddy’s homepage announcement that the commercial would be scrapped.

“This morning we previewed GoDaddy’s Super Bowl spot on a popular talk show, and shortly after a controversy started to swirl about Buddy, our puppy, being sold online. The responses were emotional and direct. Many people urged us not to run the ad.
“We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress over the past two years, advancing the GoDaddy brand as a company that cares a great deal about small business and is in their corner to help them succeed. People increasingly know who we are, what we do and who we do it for. At the end of the day, our purpose at GoDaddy is to help small businesses around the world build a successful online presence. We hoped our ad would increase awareness of that cause. However, we underestimated the emotional response. And we heard that loud and clear.
“The net result? We are pulling the ad from the Super Bowl. You’ll still see us in the Big Game this year, and we hope it makes you laugh.
“Finally, rest assured, Buddy came to us from a reputable and loving breeder in California. He’s now part of the GoDaddy family as our Chief Companion Officer and he lives permanently with one of our longtime employees.”