For Super Bowl Advertisers, Rejection Doesn’t Always Hurt

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Getting rejected is no fun, whether in love, employment or college admissions. But getting your Super Bowl ad rejected by the network isn’t the worst thing in the world for a publicity-hungry company.

Internet users sometimes refer to this as the “Streisand Effect”: The idea that any attempt to censor information on the Internet inevitably leads to it being disseminated widely as users rush to get a taste of the forbidden fruit. The same phenomenon applies to advertising, especially in the Super Bowl: An ad that’s rejected by the network for failing to meet its standards of decency immediately becomes a big news story, and is inevitably viewed by thousands of Internet users eager to see what was deemed too hot for TV.

That’s a level of (mostly) free publicity that many businesses can’t refuse, and some companies will take advantage of this situation by submitting ads that they know will be rejected. 

“This has been a trend for a while,” says Adam Hanft, CEO of marketing and branding firm Hanft Projects. “It’s a clever way for companies that don’t have a Super Bowl-worthy ad budget to get some attention.”

Consider, for instance, the 2011 ad for JesusHatesObama.com, or the cheaply made commercial for gay dating site ManCrunch.com, both of which were rejected by Fox for last year’s Super Bowl. While it’s not clear whether either site even had the money to fund a Super Bowl ad since neither chose to run a tamer ad, each got a decent bump of publicity from the controversies. JesusHatesObama.com got more than half a million views on YouTube, and ManCrunch.com was featured in major newspapers and discussed on The View. It’s as close a thing to free publicity as any company could hope for.

Even well-established businesses can see the value of the lucrative scarlet letter of network rejection. Web domain registry GoDaddy consistently airs racy advertisements during the Super Bowl, and Fox famously pulled the second airing of its 2005 Super Bowl ad, which made light of the “wardrobe malfunction” controversy of the 2004 Super Bowl. The company continued to test network censors in subsequent years; while GoDaddy spokeswoman Elizabeth Driscoll denies that the company ever submitted an ad that it knew would be rejected, she does says that GoDaddy needed 13 submissions before the network accepted its 2006 Super Bowl ad (attributing this to a “short leash” following the 2005 controversy).

So does kicking up a storm of controversy in this way actually pay dividends?