Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why I complained about the GoDaddy Superbowl ad (and why I'd do it again)

Liam the pug with his NoDaddy sign

When I first saw the GoDaddy Superbowl ad last week, I went right to Twitter to protest. And I wasn't the only one. All across the nation, people who care about animals spoke up and spoke out about an ad they thought was offensive, and perhaps even a little bit dangerous.

And those protests worked, as GoDaddy pulled that ad. 

But since then, I've heard a lot of comments that sound like this: "It's just a commercial. Can't you relax and take a joke? What's the big deal, already?"

So I thought I'd break it down.

Here's the original ad, in case you haven't seen it. In this ad, an adorable puppy goes on a long journey home, only to be greeted by a heartless woman who reminds the pup that he's been sold, and she then pops him in a box and hollers, "Ship 'em out!"

From a storytelling perspective, this thing is abysmal. Why? Because we spend 3/4 of our time in this ad relating to the wee puppy. We're rooting for him, and we want him to succeed. So when the cruel ending comes, we feel a little angry and jilted. From a flat advertising perspective, this ad is a fail. One never makes a joke that pokes fun at the viewer, unless the ad is designed to provoke anger.

But also, this is an ad about what looks a lot like a puppy mill. The owner is selling dogs over the Internet to homes that she (presumably) hasn't inspected or checked out. The person who wants the dog has (presumably) neither visited the kennel nor seen the dog (otherwise, she'd pay in cash when she picked the wee guy up). And, the owner of this kennel doesn't seem at all interested in the welfare of her charge. After all, she doesn't check him out when he returns. She pops him in a box and ships him out. That kind of carelessness really smacks of a puppy mill.

So, okay, it's a puppy mill. Why does this matter? I have two examples.

The first comes from Oregon. This week, the Oregon Humane Society intervened to close down a pug, Cavalier King Charles and other small dog breeder operating in Jackson county. More than 50 dogs were rescued from awful conditions. They were so awful, in fact, that some of these dogs need intensive medical care that blocks their adopt-ability. That means OHS must spend a great deal of money, and tie up kennels needed for other dogs, in order to make these wee ones well. So these 50 dogs suffer now, and many more in the community suffer, too. The longer these guys need care, the more pain they were in before. And that wait keeps other pups out of a place they could use in order to get a home.

And this isn't an isolated incident. Just this morning, I read about a dachshund pup rescued from a puppy mill. Before his rescue, he was in such poor conditions that the rescuers couldn't save his eyes. He lives a happy life now, but he's totally blind. And his puppy mill history did that to him.

So why do we get mad when we see these ads?

Because we don't think animal cruelty is funny. We know what puppy mills can do, and we don't want anyone to forget about it.

Also, portraying a puppy mill as a legitimate business is dangerous. It could mean that more dogs are stuffed into cages and abused until they're tossed away like garbage.

That's why advertising like this makes us mad. It's serious. It's wrong. It's dangerous. It's not funny. And that means we'll speak out when we see it, no matter when it happens or where.

I just hope that GoDaddy, and other companies like it, learn that lesson.

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