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Summary:

Five days after Groupon’s Super Bowl ad debacle, the daily deals said it has heard enough and has pulledthe remaining ads.

Groupon Super Bowl XLV Ad: Tibet With Timothy Hutton

Five days after Groupon’s Super Bowl ad debacle, the daily deals said it has heard enough and has pulledthe remaining ads.

In a blog post CEO Andrew Mason says is Groupon’s last word on the Super Bowl ad, which sparked an immediate outcry on Twitter for appearing to trivialize human rights issues in Tibet. (Judge for yourself on YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) here.)

That ad, which starred actor Timothy Hutton, was supposed to be followed by three others in the campaign, dubbed “Save The Money” and created by Crispin Porter & Bogusky. Others in the series included one with Cuba Gooding Jr. that related “saving the whales” with going whale-watching and another with Elizabeth Hurley that connected “saving the Brazilian Rainforest” with saving money on a Brazilian wax. Next up was an ad with Sheryl Crow that was about schools in poor villages.

Mason says the ads reflected the company’s “quirky” sensibilities and were intended to lampoon celebrity causes and Groupon’s earlier history as a philanthropic website, before it “sold out” and became a deals site. The ads also supported the causes that were poked fun at — Mason says they should net $500,000 for the four — but that information was not included in the ads, so they came across as callous and insensitive.

This was Mason’s second post on the controversy and the tone was slightly less defensive and self-justifying. But only slightly. Mason takes personal responsibility for running the ads, “although we worked with a professional ad agency.” In any case, Groupon promises to run something “less polarizing,” which sounds a bit more condescending than a simple “mea culpa.”

Separately, Starbucks (NSDQ: SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz has joined Groupon’s board. In order to add Schultz to Groupon’s board, Mason said in a separate blog post that “a few existing (and fantastic)” board members relinquished their seats following the company closed its $950 million round last month.

  1. Note to Groupon: You can hang on to the “quirky” label all you want, but this ad campaign wasn’t quirky; it was horrible and revealing in the most painful way. I saw the one with Cuba Gooding Jr. just last night and it made everything clear. Whether it’s the ice shelf, Brazilian rainforests or Tibetan self-determination, this campaign is simply too revealing about Groupon and the people who love it: They really don’t care about selling out a few million Tibetans if it means getting $20 off at their favorite restaurant. If you like the restaurant so much, it’s in your best interest to pay a fair price for a good meal. Or do you really think the restaurant can stick around by offering those deep discounts – for which it only gets half the revenue.

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  2. Maybe next they can pull the FTD deal. TechCrunch called it a “bait-and-switch”. http://techcrunch.com/2011/02/11/valentines-day-bait-switch-groupon-must-avoid-becoming-just-another-useless-coupon-site/

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