Groupon’s Tibet spot pisses off the Chinese


Which is most surprising: that Timothy Hutton is an Oscar winner, that he's still alive, or that he appeared in the most controversial Super Bowl spot of the night? In a move that makes Kenneth Cole's Egyptian foray look tepid, Groupon stirred up some anger with its Super spot, which started like a celebrity-driven "Save Tibet" PSA (the marketer does support The Tibet Fund) only to finish as an unabashed (many say sarcastic and/or offensive) pitch for its online couponing services. 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. Their mutual dislike for the spot marks the first time in recent memory that the two sides in the conflict have agreed on anything. Groupon explains/defends its ad tactics here, though figuring out how to successfully launch its business in the humongous China market might now prove a tougher test of the firm's business strategy. I say: Love or hate the approach, give Groupon its due for igniting more conversations (albeit some uncomfortable ones) than almost any other advertiser in the game. Any ad decried for "offending everyone" deserves a measure of respect for so blithely flying in the face of convention and good taste. And at least they didn't cast Rosanne Barr or Justin Bieber. That would've been much worse!