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As the folks at GoDaddy learned recently, puppies are a sacred thing. Showcase their adorableness in a TV commercial — as long as it has a happy ending — and you're almost assured of a Super Bowl ad hit. Fail to pay the proper homage to them, and, well, your Super Bowl ad fumbles before it even makes it to the big show.
But GoDaddy isn't the only company to shell out millions of dollars for Super Bowl Sunday airtime only to have its hopes for revenue-sparking commercial buzz deflated more than a New England Patriots game ball (sorry, had to go there). Here's our roundup of the 10 worst, most offensive, and just plain lamest Super Bowl ads ever. Oh, it is important to note that GoDaddy's puppy foul is hardly the company's only Super Bowl ad misstep...
1. Timothy Hutton for Groupon (2011)
"Hey, Tibet, sorry about your political oppression and all that, but you sure know how to whip up some tasty vittles, which is why we're going to honor you with a group discount for fish curry in Chicago." That was pretty much how Groupon's first Super Bowl ad went — with a few seconds of Oscar winner Timothy Hutton as the coupon buyer thrown in — which led viewers to deem it insensitive, and Groupon execs, after some back-and-forth, to pull it from the airwaves.
2. Robot suicide for General Motors (2007)
Anthropomorphizing car-making machinery wasn't the worst idea ever, as GM did in this Super Bowl clip. In fact, the company was too successful in charming viewers with the robotic car builder. When the little yellow guy was fired and failed to find lasting employment elsewhere, he jumped into a river and committed roboticide — in a dream. Perhaps the auto industry, of all industries, should have been a little more sensitive to the possible effects of unemployment (and the capacity for us, as humans, to form emotional attachments to inanimate objects)?
3. Racist pandas for Salesgenie (2008)
Because racial stereotypes are OK if they're in cartoons?
4. Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels for GoDaddy (2012)
It's tough to decide which is the cheesiest thing about this ad: that Jillian Michaels agreed to do it, that the premise suggests seeing a half-naked body on TV is a novelty, that the promise of accompanying "unrated content" can be found on the Internet (you are playing in a field where the bar is already really high or really low, depending on how you look at it, GoDaddy), or that GoDaddy really thought anything about this clip was going to get people to choose a ".co" over a ".com."
5. Danica Patrick's "exposure" for GoDaddy (2008)
Several scantily clad women get out of cars, carrying their beavers — you know, the furry woodland creatures (eye roll) — and the paparazzi go wild. Then Danica Patrick rolls up, starts to unzip her jacket, but zips it right back up as she declares, "A domain name and a website from GoDaddy.com give me all the exposure I need, so I can keep my beaver safe..." If only she'd had the same philosophy about her dignity, which definitely left the building in the final shot, where she's making party plans with a beaver.
6. Evil beavers for Miller Lite (1998)
Yep, more beaver humor (or lack thereof). This is one of those ads where, clearly, the whole joke is the fact that grown men are dressed as beavers, and isn't that weird and funny? Um, no. Weird, yes. Funny? Nope.
7. Elton John for Pepsi (2012)
You've spent millions to produce and air a Super Bowl ad starring Elton John, and the person you have singing in the commercial is the first winner of the now-defunct reality series The X Factor? And Sir Elton... you deserved so much better than being dumped into a pit with Flavor Flav. P.S.: Give yourself 10 bonus points if you can name the aforementioned X Factor champ.
8. Bar Refaeli for GoDaddy (2013)
Who doesn't love it when the nerd gets the girl? It was the basis for one of our all-time favorite TV series, Chuck, which co-starred Jesse Heiman, the delightful actor who spends time with supermodel Refaeli in this GoDaddy ad. All good there. Then the pair starts to kiss. OK. Then we start to hear the kiss — eww! — which goes on for a disturbingly long amount of time and is filmed in an uncomfortably close shot. Eww. It's the sort of thing that makes you want to yell, "Get a room!" except there's every chance GoDaddy would just make another Super Bowl ad out of that.
9. Adriana Lima for Teleflora (2012)
"Guys, Valentine's Day is not that complicated. Give... and you shall receive," Adriana Lima says into the camera after looking at the affordably priced vase of flowers on her dresser. Romance is as simple as a handful of discounted flowers shoved into a mass-produced glass cylinder. Think of all the ads for online dating services this ad renders useless.
10. Richard Simmons and Alice Cooper for Bridgestone Tires (2008)
A car speeding along a dark highway manages to swerve away from a deer and from rocker Alice Cooper and his scaly friend, but when the car races toward workout guru Richard Simmons, let's just say the precision tires are tested, as the driver comes quite a bit closer to hitting R.S. than it did the other beings. Sure, he can admittedly be a tad overly enthusiastic about all things Sweatin' to the Oldies, and the man has never met a shirt he wouldn't bedazzle, but threatening to take out Richard Simmons is like threatening to take out a lamb. A really blinged-out lamb with an affinity for '60s rock.