How Women Changed Go Daddy

Last week, Go Daddy announced they would be attempting a new, less terrible strategy in their advertising. In an interview with the New York Times, new-ish CEO Blake Irving described their famously gross/sexist/misogynistic ads of the past as “on the edge of inappropriate.”

A new ad, featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme (ahem), was released to exemplify the new-look Go Daddy. Whatever you think of the spot, it’s certainly a far cry from body painting naked women.

Most importantly, the Times interview with Irving shows a sensitivity to women as consumers which has previously been on the edge of nonexistent. Tellingly, Irving mentions pressure from DIY e-commerce website ETSY and their “contingent of women business owners” as a major reason for this shift.

What’s surprising – and disappointing – is that it took Go Daddy so long to notice (and respect) so many potential customers.

In 2011, Miss Representation began the #NotBuyingIt campaign with Girls for A Change, to harness the buying power of women to call-out sexist brands on Twitter. And from the beginning, Go Daddy was a primary target – a company already synonymous with the misrepresentation of women in the media. Though tens of thousands of these #NotBuyingIt tweets were sent to Go Daddy (including 8,000 during the 2013 Super Bowl alone), they seldom responded. And when they did, they just made it abundantly clear that they could care less.

But those at Go Daddy who were paying attention would have noticed the increase in #NotBuyingIt tweets in year two and three of the campaign (the hashtag reached 2 million more people in 2013 than in 2012). As social media advertising becomes increasingly important, brands can no longer ignore the fact that women and minorities are the primary users of these sites.

Go Daddy may have also noticed that more and more of these tweets included pledges to actually move domains away from the company. It wasn’t just “I plan on not buying this” anymore but became “I bought this in the past, but will no longer.” These were often women who either ran or worked at small businesses, where they had the authority to make these kinds of decisions.

So it wasn’t just the risk of poor PR which pushed Go Daddy to pay attention (or a newfound respect for humanity), but the (late) understanding that women as business owners are an increasingly powerful group – and one that needs websites.

According to CNBC:

There are more than 10 million businesses owned by women, employing more than 13 million people and generating $1.9 trillion in sales. Not only that, women-led businesses are one of the fastest growing types of the small businesses—a rare bright spot in today’s sluggish economy. The number of women-owned businesses increased nearly 60 percent since 1997.

If you scroll through Go Daddy’s YouTube history, amongst the terribleness that is their Super Bowl ads, you’ll find a couple of videos, posted earlier this year, aimed directly at these women.

A year ago, we were planning a Super Bowl campaign to fight sexist advertising, months in advance, centered on Go Daddy. That’s how clearly the brand was associated with sexism – we just knew they were going to exclude women. Contrast that with last week, when Go Daddy was on the Miss Representation Facebook page responding to people’s concerns.

So Irving and Go Daddy have realized that degrading women doesn’t sell to women (shocking), and that women are actually worth selling too (because they need the product), but the question remains: is it too little too late? Why should those women (and men) who left in droves ever come back?

One can only hope they’ve hired some women to help them with this transition. In any case, it’s going to be an uphill battle.

Written by Imran Siddiquee at Follow him on Twitter @imransiddiquee