GoDaddy: smart and sexist

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Did you geeks know that the Super Bowl was last night?

I have curly hair, wear glasses, and work in tech, so I’m not really up on these ‘social’ things — unless you’re going to end that phrase with ‘network’! Ha! But seriously. I’m actually the guy who watches for the commercials. On a good year, they’re darn funny, a seriously fine display of short form filmmaking. Did you catch the Audi Prom spot? It has style, sass, and good humor. Of course, if a commercial isn’t going to be funny, I’d prefer that it really speak to me. Fortunately, there’s GoDaddy.

If there’s one thing that a niche service provider like a domain registrar should do, it’s spend millions on advertising to a broad population. In past years, GoDaddy’s ads have operated on the principle of precognition. They aim to prove that GoDaddy knows their customers so well that they’ll have what you want, exactly when you want it. Men like sports, beer, and breasts — the thought being: I’m already drinking a beer and watching football, now GoDaddy has turned this into the golden trifecta of male interests. Maybe there’s a casual disregard for women, but whatever, right? I mean, it’s true, dudes like it. You can’t please everyone!

Since last year, GoDaddy has changed it up. There are still babes aplenty, but the ads aim to really round out our understanding of GoDaddy as a company, because apparently, some people can’t take a company that airs softcore porn and an invitation to their website seriously. These new ads, brilliantly enough, show us that GoDaddy is both smart and sexy, which is important to know since most of us prefer reliability over sexiness in our dull-but-necessary backend services. As GoDaddy spokesperson Danica Patrick informs us, GoDaddy’s sexy side is represented by supermodel Bar Refaeli, and GoDaddy’s smart side is represented by some nerd named Walter. I guess it’s kind of messed up that we geeks are represented this way, but it’s true, we’re smart enough to "[create] a killer website" like the ad says. In the end, the two actors go in for a sloppy make-out to show how GoDaddy brings them together.

Hold on though — what exactly is it that Bar Refaeli provides other than her good looks. Let’s go to the tape:

"There’s the sexy side, represented by Bar Refaeli, and the smart side that creates a killer website for your small business, represented by Walter."

Walter’s so preoccupied during the commercial that he can’t even pull away from coding on his laptop until his cue. Refaeli, on the other hand, sits silently with her legs crossed and smiles when she’s addressed. What she brings to the picture isn’t elaborated on. That hints at a pretty superficial valuation of Refaeli, but I guess she is a supermodel, so maybe I’m just reading too far into this.

GoDaddy actually has a second commercial this year that doesn’t involve a hint of sexiness. A couple sits beside one another, and the woman asks the man, "When are you ever gonna put your idea online?" The joke is that we cut between a half dozen nearly identical scenes where the man makes excuses for not registering his domain yet. Each scene we cut between has a parallel setup, but the actors’ accents and dress change wildly, which means that there isn’t really any reason that it has to be a man with the idea and a woman nagging him.

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It’s starting to seem that in GoDaddy’s world, men are smart, have ideas, and do work, while women are either beautiful objects to be ogled or difficult companions to be dealt with. Heck, even the name GoDaddy has some sort of fetishistic attachments — aren’t we meant to imagine Refaeli in that cute pink dress begging us to be her GoDaddy?

GoDaddy was kind enough to release its commercials a few days ahead of the Super Bowl so that we can get the controversy out of the way. I was relieved to hear that even the Today Show was addressing it. I tuned in to the seven minute segment to hear their thoughts — naturally, they must be shocked. This isn’t GoDaddy’s standard pandering to male interests, it’s an actual disregard for women. "It’s kind of funny," the reporter says, "then, depending on your threshold, shocking." Yes, yes it is, Today Show. The reporter continues, "The full commercial goes in for a tight, leave no tongue to the imagination, close up." Wait. That’s your problem?

Somehow, the only controversy GoDaddy has brewed this time around is, yet again, another have they gone too far shock-jock attention grab. As the Today Show points out, it’s totally gross that a hot babe like Refaeli would touch a dork like Walter. The talk show hosts chat with the actors and discuss how lucky a guy he is for getting that role, "If I were you, I wouldn’t even ask to be paid after that." I guess we’re all living in GoDaddy’s world, where women are the gatekeepers to lovin’ and only GoDaddy could hook up pure male intellect with the mindless but beautiful shell that comprises a supermodel.

When it was found out that GoDaddy was in support of SOPA and PIPA, two bills that would threaten free speech on the internet, there was an outcry against the company and a call to transfer domains to other providers. Any good geek has likely long since left their service, but there’s a continued conversation about GoDaddy that needs to be had. Their commercials aren’t constructed in good-fun — they’re aligned to appeal to antiquated stereotypes that trivialize women (and men for that matter, but in the end it’s a male fantasy that plays out).

What I wanted the Today Show to discuss was this: isn’t there a single person who GoDaddy could exemplify as both smart and sexy? How about James Franco, who in addition to being a sharp looking movie star is also simultaneously attending graduate school at Columbia, NYU, Brooklyn College, and Warren Wilson. Or, I have two suggestions that I think GoDaddy will really like: Bar Refaeli, whose business venture raised $1 million in angel funding in late 2011, and Danica Patrick, the insanely talented auto racer. How about that for next year GoDaddy? Your service is as quick as Danica Patrick and looks good doing it — or, you can once again split the human race down the center, putting looks on one side and brains on the other.