Groupon Pulling Controversial Campaign

Groupon is pulling its controversial ad campaign that broke during this year’s Super Bowl. The ads poked fun at causes, while raising donations for several charities at the same time. The company’s CEO Andrew Mason also apologized to those who were offended by the ads.

The Super Bowl XLV ad featured actor Timothy Hutton talking at first seriously about the plight of Tibet. He then launches into a comic bit about a Tibetan restaurant that explained the premise behind Groupon.

Mason wrote Thursday on his blog that, “Five days have passed since the Super Bowl, and one thing is clear—our ads offended a lot of people.”

Mason noted in an earlier post Tuesday that he tried to explain the rationale behind the campaign, but then acknowledged, “as many of you have pointed out, if an ad requires an explanation, that means it didn’t work.”

“We hate that we offended people, and we’re very sorry that we did,” Mason wrote. “We’ve listened to your feedback, and since we don’t see the point in continuing to anger people, we’re pulling the ads.”

Mason did note that the company expects to net $500,000 for the charities involved in the campaign.

The TV spots tried to emulate the quirky comedic style of the daily e-mail offers Groupon sends to subscribers. “We thought we were poking fun at ourselves, but clearly the execution was off and the joke didn’t come through,” Mason added. “I personally take responsibility; although we worked with a professional ad agency [Crispin Porter + Bogusky] in the end, it was my decision to run the ads.” 

The controversial ads, which were amended earlier this week after all the negative feedback to include a graphic directing viewers to, were part of Groupon’s first network TV campaign. Mason said they would be replaced by “less polarizing” spots.

Read Mason’s entire blog entry here.