Fox sacks GoDaddy's Bowl ad

Network decides one airing of strap malfunction is enough

February 08, 2005|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

That steadfast defender of decency on the airwaves - the Fox television network - refused to air an ad during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl that it had aired just three quarters earlier.

The ad, for GoDaddy.com, showed a buxom young woman testifying before a censorship committee. As she speaks, her wardrobe malfunctions: The strap on her tank top snaps and slides down her arm. Fox had approved the ad before the Super Bowl and aired it during the first quarter Sunday night.

The same ad was supposed to air again during the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. It didn't. Instead, Fox showed a promo for The Simpsons. Go Daddy founder Bob Parsons was stunned. He had paid $4.8 million for those two ads.

"What happened, when you think about it, is this: A parody of censorship was censored," says Parsons, a Baltimore native who grew up in Highlandtown and whose ad, because it was yanked, has become the focus of post-Super Bowl chatter.

John Waters would be proud.

Fox carefully vetted all ads submitted for the Super Bowl, and at least four commercials were rejected or pulled before the game. The GoDaddy ad, though, got the green light. But the network second-guessed itself after seeing it air in the first quarter.

Fox's president of advertising sales, Jon Nesvig, said in a statement yesterday: "When the GoDaddy.com spot aired in the first half, it became obvious to us that its content was very much out of step with the tenor set by the other ads and programming broadcast by Fox on Super Bowl Sunday, so Fox made the decision to drop its repeat airing. We understand Go Daddy's disappointment with our decision, but ultimately we are responsible for what our network broadcasts."

Of course, this is the same network that is attracting attention because it is expected to broadcast this week a kiss between two high-school-aged female characters on The O.C. and that last year was fined $1.2 million by the Federal Communications Commission for Married by America, a show that featured strippers clad in whipped cream and spanking men.

Parsons says Fox told him the decision to pull the ad came from the NFL, which found it "inappropriate." He adds, "They felt it was in everyone's best interest not to run it a second time. Well, it was not in my best interest."

Officials with the NFL could not be reached for comment yesterday.

GoDaddy.com registers Internet domain names. Parsons hoped to gain wide exposure for the company by parodying the crackdown on indecency that seems to have obsessed the FCC and terrified broadcasters for the last year.

But Fox and the NFL don't seem to have much of a sense of humor about the crackdown. They had already talked Budweiser into pulling an ad that poked fun at Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" last year, when Justin Timberlake ripped her top and exposed her breast during the halftime show. Given the outcry that followed, some were amazed Fox accepted the Go Daddy ad in the first place.

"Given everything that had been written and talked about, I'm surprised they let it go on at all," says David Blum, senior vice president of the Baltimore-based ad firm Eisner Communications. He said the ad's concept - spoofing the congressional decency hearings last year - was funny but it was unnecessary to have the woman lose a strap on her top.

Parsons, who graduated from Patterson High School in 1968 and lived in Baltimore until 1979, is now based in Scottsdale, Ariz. He says he expects to be refunded his $2.4 million for the ad that didn't run and that he may seek additional damages. He says most people wouldn't find his ad offensive.

"In this country, you have this very small minority that is very vocal that I think [lies] awake at night looking for things they can find offensive," Parsons says. "The reason [the silent majority] are called the silent majority is because they never say anything."

In fact, the digital recorder company TiVo reported yesterday that the first few seconds of the GoDaddy ad were the most replayed of any commercial in this year's Super Bowl. Parsons says traffic to his Web site is up since the ad aired.

He also points out that his ad is doing quite well in a poll of best Super Bowl ads on Fox's Web site. By yesterday afternoon, about 255,000 people had voted in the poll. Of the 55 ads broadcast during the game, the GoDaddy spot was ranked No. 4.

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