I have never been a fan of Bob Parsons, the owner of GoDaddy.com. From the first time I saw him on television talking about the Super Bowl advertisements on behalf of his company, I knew we were not kindred spirits. I guess I could have predicted this based on the content of his company’s ads; However, the advertisements were so blatantly sexist, so exploitative, so crass that on some level I kind of thought they were a joke. No one would seriously equate women with sexuality and men with smarts... would they? No one would seriously believe that promising pictures of naked women would drive serious consumers to their website... could they? When I saw Bob Parsons actually defend the commercials, he kind of made my skin crawl.
Again, I maybe should have guessed some level of sleaziness based on the fact that he named his company, which has nothing to do with parenting or fatherhood, “GoDaddy”.
And then there was the whole incident with the elephant . . . .
So I don’t like Bob Parsons, I would never do business with his company, and I admit I am automatically biased against anything he does. Thus, when I read recently that “GoDaddy” was changing their advertising strategy, I was more than a little skeptical. In order to target small business owners, particularly women, the company announced that they would be moving away from their controversial advertising campaign and starting something new.
This year, GoDaddy announced that during the Super Bowl they were going to air what could be considered reality show advertising. A woman, a real woman (not an actress) was going to quit her job. For real. During the Super Bowl! The woman was going to look into the camera, hope her boss was among the 100 million people watching the game, and officially quit. The idea was that she was going to start her own business and use GoDaddy to build her website.
Emails and Facebook posts condemning the ad started showing up in my inbox a couple of days ago (Disclosure: I tend to communicate with people who think like me). Knowing it was Bob Parsons approved, my friends and I were sure the ad would be exploitive; I was very sure I would hate it.
And then I saw the commercial . . .
The ad featured a woman who works in an ordinary job. Not a sexy job. Not even a stereotypically feminine job. In fact, she was a machine engineer – hardly an occupation that insults or exploits.
And the woman? She looked like an ordinary woman. Not a super skinny woman. Not a half dressed woman. In fact, she looked a lot like one of my best friends – a fair representation of an average woman in America.
According to the advertisement, she was quitting her job to follow her dream... And her dream? To serve men? To exploit her body? To use her feminine wiles to gain economic advantage? Not quite. Her dream was to sell puppets. Her website “PuppetsbyGwen” was displayed along the bottom of the screen.
Now do I think it’s weird that a woman chose to quit her job on camera in front of 100 million people? Sure. But, I think it’s even weirder that people date on camera, get therapy on camera, and reveal their marital problems on camera. I have long stopped asking , “Do they realize they are on camera?” as I watch the Real Housewives brawl, gossip, and expose their dirty laundry. Actually, the fact they are on camera seems to be the point. We are becoming a society that doesn’t want to live off camera.
So now we’ve become a society that quits our jobs on camera. It hardly seems revolutionary given what has come before. Quitting a job and starting a new company on camera actually makes sense. If it weren’t for the GoDaddy connection, I would almost be willing to say it was a smart move for Gwen. More than one person who was at the Super Bowl party I attended visited PuppetsByGwen.com on their smart phones.
But, a leopard never changes its spots, right? As I write this I am haunted by the feeling that I am missing something. Is it possible that Bob Parsons and GoDaddy are behind a Super Bowl commercial that didn’t exploit? That portrays women fairly and respectfully? It’s hard for me to admit. After all, there is still the second half . . . .