Revolt Over GoDaddy CEO's Elephant Kill Video Makes 20,433 Domains Flee, Rival Claims

Rival domain name registrar Namecheap says they’ve raised over $20,000 for an elephant charity and poached thousands of customers who switched 20,433 domain names from GoDaddy following an uproar over a video their CEO posted of himself killing a pachyderm. Bob Parsons is unapologetic, saying he did it to feed the hungry villagers and save their crops. But that’s just a moral fig leaf. In another video, Bob hunts and kills a leopard. I don’t think it ended up as steaks for hungry villagers.

Bob and GoDaddy have courted controversy for years, trying to be edgy and envelope-pushing. Each year they make headlines with another cleavage-drenched SuperBowl ad that’s “too sexy for TV” and drive people to their website to register their new website names. “If I’m asked why I use such … well … GoDaddy-esque (i.e. fun, edgy and a bit inappropriate) marketing to promote ourselves,” Bob wrote on his blog in 2007, “the answer is also simple: It draws sharp attention to the company. In a nutshell, it works.” In his video acceptance speech for a Distinguished Entrepreneur award his alma mater the University of Baltimore gave him, he cited “smoking hot babes” as the secret of his business’s success. He’s right. At their core, domain name registrations sites are performing a pretty low-level clerical function. You gotta stand out somehow. So GoDaddy is the one with the boobie ads and the crazy CEO.

Bob says that the elephants are a menace and trample the villager’s sorghum crops. He says going to Africa every year and shooting one of these elephants is one of his proudest achievements. The villagers are unable to drive off the elephants with whips or firecrackers, and they love him for it. In the elephant video, it says that people came from 20 miles away to eat the elephant. They’re shown in the video, some of them sporting day-glo orange GoDaddy caps, ripping apart the elephant carcass and eating the meat.

beehivefence.jpgBut what about bees? Research by Oxford University published in the African Journal of Ecology discovered that elephants prefer to avoid areas where they see beehives. Even the recorded sound of a beehive can drive them off. While the sides of elephants are like those of tanks, the bees are attracted to the their eyes and can fly up their trunks. A swarm of African honeybees can kill a calf, which hasn’t developed a thick hide yet. Mice might not frighten elephants, but this is one pint-sized creature they don’t like.

The researchers tested out a fence made of log beehives hanging on poles connected by fencing wire. Even when elephants tried to go around the hives and push through, the wire made the hives jump and the elephants ran off, thinking a bee attack was imminent. In their test, a farm protected by one of these fences had 150% fewer raiding elephants and 86% fewer successful crop raids than a control farm with no fence.

If Bob really wants to help the villagers, how about putting his money towards a sustainable solution like this one? No elephants would have to die, and it would work even if there were no big white men with guns around.

I tried to reach Bob for an interview but he was unavailable, vacationing in Hawaii.

“Go Daddy has seen no significant impact on our business from this,” GoDaddy’s VP of Public Relations, Elizabeth Driscoll told me. She also took issue with the numbers put out by Namecheap and pointed out that the discount coupon code had been reposted to several deal sites.

Indeed, GoDaddy is the dominant domain name registration site, with 32% of the market, according to webhosting.info. Their next nearest rival has 1.004%. It’s going to take a lot more than an incident like this to put a dent in their business, and it got their name out there even more. After all, how did the video even get started in the first place? Bob tweeted it to his 33,988 followers. “Just back from hunting problem elephant in Zimbabwe. Here’s my vacation video. Enjoy. http://x.co/TxZ5.” He wanted attention and he got it. It was his greatest viral video ever.

Driscoll told me it was not an intentional stunt. “This wasn’t a commercial, this was not a GoDaddy initiative, we have meetings where we decide commercials.”

I don’t have a problem with hunters but I do with hypocrites. You want to go on a safari, go ahead. But don’t pretend like you wouldn’t be there if you weren’t getting to shoot big game. And don’t be surprised when people get upset that you appear to be reveling in a living creature’s death – the rock music during the raw elephant feast didn’t help – and turn against your business with which you have intertwined your public image.

When CNN’s Brook Baldwni asked him, “Are you going back to hunt elephants?” Bob replied, “I’m going back next year and the year after and the year after to deal with problem elephants and to help these farmers raise their crops and to have something to eat. Yes, absolutely.” Maybe this time he’ll pack some bees instead of bullets.

REFERENCE
Beehive fence deters elephant raiders [OX.AC.UK]

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