NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - GoDaddy.com, the Super Bowl advertiser caught in a post-game ruckus of Janet Jackson-like proportions, saw traffic to its site surge during Sunday night's game and the controversy that followed the next day.
The number of visitors to GoDaddy.com, a privately-held reseller of Internet domain names, shot up nearly 400 percent after its first-quarter commercial aired, according to technology research firm comScore Networks. The company had 140,000 visitors Feb. 6, compared to a normal Sunday rate of about 30,000.
On Monday, amid news reports that Fox, the Super Bowl broadcaster, had yanked a second planned commercial after National Football League officials complained, traffic rose more than 250 percent above normal levels. GoDaddy.com typically gets 160,000 visitors on any given Monday. Yesterday it drew 590,000 visitors.
GoDaddy.com wasn't the only game advertiser to post an increase in traffic to it site Sunday. Indeed, the biggest increase -- 600 percent, to 43,000 visitors -- was registered by Budweiser.com. Anheuser-Busch ran 5 minutes worth of ads, including two that scored high in post-game viewer polls.
Official Internet sites for Olympus, Apple iTunes, Cadillac, and Ameriquest Mortgage -- also the half-time show sponsor -- also logged big, albeit smaller, increases in traffic after their commercials aired, according to comScore.
The implication from the data is that Super Bowl advertising increases product awareness. Whether that awareness lasts or translates into notably higher sales for this year's crop, who paid as much as $2.4 million per 30-second spot, remains to be seen.
Betting on a payoff
The Super Bowl and its ads are the most widely-watched television event of the year. But paying top dollar to hawk products during the game doesn't guarantee a sales boost. On the one hand, Apple Computer's infamous "1984" ad nearly two decades ago helped generate $4.5 million in sales within six hours of its broadcast, according to Bernice Kanner's "The Super Bowl of Advertising: How the Commercials Won the Game."
But the costly exposure didn't help many of the 17 Internet startups that dominated the 2000 game. Does anyone remember OurBeginning.com or OnMoney.com? Both sites vanished after the dot.com bubble burst a few months after the St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans.
GoDaddy.com, while reminiscent of that spendthrift era, appears to be different. President Bob Parsons says the company has 650 employees and more than $100 million in sales in 2004.
GoDaddy.com's Super Bowl ad featured a buxom brunette who has a "wardrobe malfunction" while appearing before a television network censorship committee. The ad was intended to be a satire of last year's game, when Jackson exposed her breast while performing during half-time, and of how anxious networks executives are to placate federal regulators of decency standards.
The pressure to keep Super Bowl XXXIX clean contributed to the withdrawal of at least four ads before the game aired, including a commercial for Airborne cold remedy that would have included a shot of Mickey Rooney's bare bottom.
Anheuser-Busch, the game's biggest advertiser and a Super Bowl sponsor for nearly 20 years, let NFL officials preview one of its planned ads, also a spoof on last year's Jackson debacle. In it, a stagehand, presumably working the half-time show, uses Jackson's outfit to get a better grip while uncapping a Bud Light. He rips the garment and then tries to repair it with tape.
The NFL wasn't pleased and so Anheuser-Busch voluntarily withdrew it.
But the football league didn't get to pre-screen the GoDaddy.com ad, which Fox approved beforehand.
After the spot first aired, NFL officials objected and Fox took the highly unusual step of pulling a second airing of the commercial, set for late in the fourth quarter.
Yesterday an irate Parsons said he expects a full refund "at the very least" and issued veiled threats about suing the network over the cancelled ad. Parsons said that, because the ad did not run as planned, his company lost credibility and an even bigger lift to its site traffic.
But as the traffic spike suggests, GoDaddy.com has reaped some rewards from the ruckus.
Even before the game aired, Parsons was crowing on his personal Web log about all the free publicity the company's Super Bowl plans had already generated.
"The media attention that we have received up to the Super Bowl has been far and away more than any of us at Go Daddy would have dared to dream," wrote Parsons.