When we heard that Groupon had snagged a Super Bowl commercial spot we were excited to see just what they would come up with for the big day. Would they be absurd, chock full of slapstick violence and explosions like their Mind Blowing Deals Super Bowl commercial parody from 2009? We weren’t sure. But we definitely didn’t think that Groupon would go in the direction they did – pissing off, shocking and offending the world by making fun of the situation in Tibet, mocking deforestation and choosing a cruise over saving the whales. Groupon, what were you thinking?
Last night we saw all kinds of commercials, several of which pushed the envelope a tad, but no one came close to being as offensive as Groupon. Their ads started out like friendly PSA spots, but turned into something much more appalling. And what’s even more appalling is the fact that they got big-name stars on board, including Timothy Hutton, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Elizabeth Hurley.
The Tibet ad, with Timothy Hutton, has drawn up the most controversy. According to Adweek’s AdFreak, even China is pissed off. “The Web is now buzzing with pissed-off people, from the owner of the Himalayan restaurant in Chicago that’s name-checked during the ad to people in China, where officials have long denied that there are any significant problems in Tibet.”
But wait, it gets worse! Who cares about the rainforests when you can do a little deforestation of your own with a 50% Groupon discount on a Brazilian wax?
Oh and who cares about saving the whales when you can go on a cruise with Cuba Gooding Jr.?
So what does Groupon have to say for themselves? Well, they wrote about their foray into the world of Super Bowl commercials on the Groupon blog, and I’m not really sure they understand just how offensive these ads were:
“The gist of the concept is this: When groups of people act together to do something, it’s usually to help a cause. With Groupon, people act together to help themselves by getting great deals. So what if we did a parody of a celebrity-narrated, PSA-style commercial that you think is about some noble cause (such as “Save the Whales”), but then it’s revealed to actually be a passionate call to action to help yourself (as in “Save the Money”)?
“Since we grew out of a collective action and philanthropy site (ThePoint.com) and ended up selling coupons, we loved the idea of poking fun at ourselves by talking about discounts as a noble cause. So we bought the spots, hired mockumentary expert Christopher Guest to direct them, enlisted some celebrity faux-philanthropists, and plopped down three Groupon ads before, during, and after the biggest American football game in the world.”
It looks like a lot of people didn’t “get” that they were poking fun at themselves by talking about discounts as a noble cause. It looked more like they were poking fun at noble causes to get a little publicity. But the good news for Groupon is that if there was anyone left who hadn’t heard of them before, they sure know who Groupon is now.