A Look Back at Super Bowl Commercials: Does Sex Always Sell?

ImageWe’ve all heard it before – sex sells.  But is that always the case?  Is there an exception to the famous advertising adage that guides the commercials and advertisements in our lives?

After watching Super Bowl XLVII and its commercials, the most coveted slot for advertisers and marketers, I might be changing my thoughts.  Sure, I enjoyed the Calvin Klein ad featuring a muscled male model wearing nothing but his Calvin Klein briefs.  That, of course, is an instance of sex selling.  Women want him, men want to be like him.  It gives the brand sex appeal.

But the GoDaddy commercial that was featured early on in the game took more of an abstract interpretation of “sex sells”.  The thirty second ad has sparked a great deal of controversy and talk.  For those of you that weren’t exposed to the commercial that’s been described by Forbes as sounding “like an elderly man with dry-mouth syndrome…walking vigorously through the desert,” I turn to Huffington Post’s fuller description:

“A very lucky computer geek got some serious face(-sucking) time in this sexily awkward GoDaddy Super Bowl ad. Hosted by race car hottie Danica Patrick, “Perfect Match” features the drop-dead gorgeous Bar Rafaeli making out with a ruddy-faced nerd named Walter.”

So did this “sexily awkward” ad achieve its goal?  In my opinion, it all depends on what that goal was.  If GoDaddy’s goal was to make consumers want to use their service or become a fan of the company, I would venture to say that the commercial was a flop.  GoDaddy’s advertisements historically include women portrayed as sexy and flirtatious – a portrayal that is abhorred by many women for its objectification of females.  Many viewers were put off by the unlikely pair’s extremely public display of affection, deeming the company as having bad taste or crossing a line. (Interestingly, GoDaddy wanted to use different versions that were even more graphic and vulgar, until CBS shot them down.  If this commercial toed the line, the would-have-been commercials were miles past it.)

Yet if GoDaddy’s goal was to get people talking, they most certainly have achieved it.  Seconds, minutes, and even hours after the commercial aired, people around me and all over the country were having conversations about the advertisement.  They say that any press is good press, and that seems to be the motto that GoDaddy followed with this commercial.  Everyone from my friends to my professor was talking about this commercial.  Whether people are talking about the explicit and drawn out kiss or debating its effectiveness, there is one word that sums up the commercial’s aftermath: buzz.

So I’m left with the question: was GoDaddy successful?  As for me, I’m torn.  While I didn’t enjoy the commercial itself, I can appreciate the aftermath it sparked.  So I’ll leave it to you to decide: does sex always sell?

-Shannon Clark

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