Do Sexy Super Bowl Ads Sell?

While I was traveling this past weekend, we noticed an interesting article in USA Today about racy Super Bowl ads. The online article features a video interview of Bob Parsons, founder of GoDaddy.com, known for the success of his sexy ads. The video also interviews GoDaddy Girl and famous race car driver Danica Patrick. Both are asked, “Does sex sell?”

Both say… yes.

Parsons readily admits that when they decided to do a Super Bowl ad in 2005, they were a company that nobody heard of, selling a product difficult to articulate… especially to people that might be slightly intoxicated at a Super Bowl party.  “But,” Parsons explains, “what we could get across was the GoDaddy.com name.”

He goes on to explain how it worked for them in 2005.

“I thought the best way to do that was… most of the viewers were males… we’d have a very well endowed female. We’d certainly have our name across her well-endowment. And our ad had to be polarizing, and it was. Our market share before that ad was 16%. The following week it was 25% worldwide. I would say it worked!”

The math doesn’t lie. Neither do the GoDaddy girls.

“If you’re asking me the question, Does sex sell?” says GoDaddy girl Danica Patrick. “Yes is the answer”

But the USA Today article offers an opposing point of view, a report from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, who have been analyzing these types of ads during the Super Bowl for the last two decades. They contend that spots with sexual imagery take a 10% hit in “likeability.”

I don’t want to be a skeptic, but… really?

Apparently they neglected to look at GoDaddy’s year-end financial statement.

Who do you believe? Do you think sex sells? When you look at the content in the top songs and TV shows today, what do you see? Sure, you’ll find some good content, Adele, etc. But are the sexy artists taking hits in popularity?

What about the rise in Internet porn? 25% of all search engine requests are pornography related. 35% of all internet downloads are pornographic. Are these sites taking any hits in likability?

What examples do you see of sex selling?

What examples do you see of sex repelling instead of selling?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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5 Responses to Do Sexy Super Bowl Ads Sell?

  1. James Coulter says:

    Yes, sex sells…unfortunately. And the hit in “likeability” is deceptive. I believe that 10% is an accurate measurement, but I would bet that what it is depicting is the 10% of viewers that actually take offense to the sexually charged ads. Furthermore, I don’t know that the “likeability” factor translates concretely into reduced sales numbers.

    I purchase gas constantly from companies that I, personally, don’t like. I have a cell phone with a company that drives me nuts. Likability is “a” factor, but not the only factor. However, brand recognition and the ability of that brand to be readily recalled in the mind of a potential client/customer at the time of their need is a HUGE factor. Unfortunately, associating a brand with a sexually charged image or scene is much more likely to create a powerful chemical pathway in the mind that will make a brand/service/commercial easy to recall. Companies like GoDaddy and Abercrombie and Fitch (two companies I don’t like at all) have figured that out and capitalized on it.

  2. Jay Sweningson says:

    Well of course sex sells!!

    I mean, if it didnt people like Britney Spears, Madonna, FOR SURE the Kardashians…well they simply would have never “exsisted” in pop culture. Neither Britney or Madonna had exceptionally strong voices…it was the sexual envelope and skin they pushed. The Kardashians….YEESH!! They REALLY wouldnt exsist if it wasnt for Kim’s sex tape making her a name and then they all capitalizing on that…Paris Hilton…on and on.
    It is so sad to me, but the truth is, we are sinful people with sin natures and in a society that is steadily getting more and more “free” and less and less moral. To be moral is to be Christian…to be Christian is to be politically incorrect and to be labeled close minded and a bigot.
    So, in a society like that where to have values is being close minded or prudish and that is considered a bad thing…well the envelope will keep getting pushed and those standing up will continued to be labeled hate mongers…and things will only get worse before they get better…I mean there was another society like this Sodom and Gomorrah…yeah, lets see how that ended. 🙂 Just grateful for a God that is bigger than it all and that grants wisdom on how to effect change in my little corner of the world. May all our hearts be open to hear.

  3. Kent says:

    This would even be more interesting if you had included Bob Parson’s business origins.

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