As GoDaddy found out when it pulled its Super Bowl ad this year after being accused of making light of internet puppy mills, humor and advertising is a tough mix. That's especially true when the subject of the joke has been historically victimized or is otherwise seen as vulnerable.
But GoDaddy has company in the dog house. Plenty of advertisers have gotten dinged after their Super Bowl ads went off mark. Here's five of the top Super Bowl ad blunders.
Holiday Inn (1999)
Holiday Inn compared the millions it was pouring into its hotel's renovations to a transgendered woman you wouldn't recognize at a class reunion. The ad irked customers and offended the LGBT community.
Groupon's ad starts with actor Timothy Hutton voicing what sounds like a plea for donations for the embattled Tibetan people. Just as you're about to reach for your checkbook, it turns out he's really just bragging about a great meal at a Tibetan restaurant he got for cheap thanks to Groupon. This was one of a series of Super Bowl ads the social shopping site ran that year, each of which seemed to rub people the wrong way.
Dirt Devil (1997)
Dancing legend Fred Astaire had only been dead 10 years when home care company Dirt Devil resurrected some old movie footage of him for their Super Bowl ad. In the piece, they edited out the coat rack he was dancing with to make it look like he was dancing with one of their brooms. Then they also edited in some tight shots of his feet with their product. Astaire famously forbid any closeups of dancers in his movies, so this was another mis-step for fans.
Just for Feet (1999)
This shoe store's ad showed white hunters tracking down a barefoot black Kenyaan runner racing across the plains. Then they hand him a cup of water laced with knockout juice. When he wakes up, he discovers they've placed Nikes on his feet. He screams "nooo" then tries to shake them off as he stumbles away. Viewers saw parallels with slavery imagery and the shoe chain went on to sue its agency for committing "advertising malpractice."
Sales lead company SalesGenie.com used a pair of cartoon pandas with stereotypical Chinese accents who have a problem drumming up business for their bamboo furniture store, "Ling Ling's Furniture Shack." Because they keep eating all the chairs! Viewers didn't find this hilarious and the commercial was widely panned.