A Super Bowl without any racy Go Daddy commercials? You'd have to rewind a decade to see that—or just fast-forward to this winter's game.
The Web-hosting company said Thursday that it has bought two 30-second slots, one in each half, for the Feb. 2 broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII on Fox. And in a major shift in its big-game strategy, it has vowed that the commercials will contain no sexual innuendo whatsoever.
"We've matured. We've evolved," CMO Barb Rechterman said in a statement. "Our new brand of Super Bowl commercials will make it crystal clear what we do and who we stand for. We may be changing our approach, but as we've always said, we don't care what the critics think. We are all about our customers."
The tonal shift has been in the works for some time. When Go Daddy hired Deutsch New York as its ad agency in mid-2012, it said it wanted to move beyond the sleazy marketing for which it had become synonymous since the infamous 2005 Super Bowl spot with Candice Michelle, spoofing Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction from the year before.
But the shift has been gradual. Deutsch's first spots, themed "Smart meets sexy," still featured half-dressed women—they were just paired with nerdy software engineers. That approach continued during the 2013 Super Bowl, including one spot that had supermodel Bar Refaeli making out with the actor Jesse Heiman. Longtime Go Daddy girl Danica Patrick starred in another spot—her record 12th appearance in Super Bowl ads.
The shift accelerated after Blake Irving joined as Go Daddy's new CEO last January. This fall, the company finally introduced new ads with no sexy women at all, and the theme "It's go time," including one quirky spot with Jean-Claude Van Damme.
The creative details for the two upcoming Super Bowl ads have not been revealed, although Patrick will appear in one spot.
"The Super Bowl ad strategy allows us to have fun and be edgy, and demonstrate how we help the little guy kick ass," Irving said. "2014 marks a new era for GoDaddy Super Bowl commercials."
"I love what's going on at Go Daddy," Patrick added. "Since our last Super Bowl, I've been to the new Silicon Valley office and talked with customers who are genuinely grateful for how Go Daddy helps them grow their businesses online. Go Daddy is for the go-getter, the 'little guy' looking to compete with the 'big guys,' and I love that."