Groupon Responds to Super Bowl Ad Complaints

[tweetmeme source=”equalman” only_single=false Groupon CEO Andrew Mason responded to the backlash on Twitter and Facebook about Groupon’s  “Tibet” Super Bowl ad via the Groupon Blog:

We take the causes we highlighted extremely seriously – that’s why we created this campaign in partnership with many hallmark community organizations, for whom we’re raising money at

Groupon’s roots are in social activism – we actually began as cause-based website called The Point, and we continue to use Groupon to support local causes with our G-Team initiative. In our two short years as a business, we’ve already raised millions of dollars for national charities like Donors Choose and Kiva.

As Mason points out, Groupon’s  roots are cause-based, The Point, and is designed to help small and local businesses have a platform to compete against corporations.

Mason further goes on to state that the ads were designed to poke fun at Groupon, not make fun of the people of Tibet.

Christopher Guest was the director of this spot and he is best known for the spoofs “This is Spinal Tap,” “Best in Show,” and “Waiting for Guffman.”

The creators of the ads,  Crispin Porter + Bogusk, are known for making waves. The Miami & Colorado based agency was also behind the Whopper Sacrifice campaign for Burger King that gave away, ironically enough, a coupon to people that would “defriend” ten people on Facebook.  Facebook removed the campaign in 2009.  The controversy surrounding this campaign resulted in 32 million free media impressions.

The question remains, is all PR good PR?  Will the controversy around this Tibet ad actually drive Groupon’s stated desire: to raise awareness around these causes in the hopes of increasing donations to them?

Greenpeace supports Groupon:

The commercial was part of a Groupon campaign called “Save the Money.” Greenpeace is happily participating in the campaign. The truth is that the “Save the Money” campaign and the commercial are really helping us save the whales.

Here’s how it works: Groupon is collecting donations from individuals to help Greenpeace save the whales. People can purchase a $15 Groupon to save the whales and when they do, Groupon matches that by giving the person $15 in Groupon credit. It’s a great campaign and it’s really going to help us in our work.

This is in reference to another Groupon Ad with Cuba Gooding Jr. around saving the whales (below):

Groupon plans to edit the commercials to call-out ways in which people can donate money to

Only time will tell if it appeases people like @rohitbhargaya who posted “Groupon seems to have achieved the unique feat of paying $3M to lose customers who previously loved them.”

A viewer named Vinod posted on the Groupon blog in response to Mason’s explaination:

I know what you were trying to convey, but you had 2 problems.

  1. The ad wasn’t very funny to being with. If it made people laugh you wouldn’t see all of the negative feedback. It simply lacked the humor necessary to trivialize a topic like Tibet.
  2. The ad didn’t explain your intentions enough.

Another reader named Mary posted:  “I thought they were great.”

Mason’s quick response is a step in the right direction (something more companies should do) and if more money is raised as a result of this controversy than perhaps things will end positively for everyone.

By Erik Qualman


6 responses to “Groupon Responds to Super Bowl Ad Complaints

  1. The first commercial I saw was the whale hunting one – I couldn’t believe Cuba Gooding Jr was on a superbowl ad talking about whales…

    Then when he mentioned Groupon, everyone in the room was wow’d!

    I can see why some sensative people would speak up about these ads – but Groupon did a VERY GOOD JOB responding – and in my opinion, are not at any fault.

    If anything, they did great promoting themselves and increasing awareness for the several causes their commercials refer to.

    Well done Groupon.

  2. Thanks for share information

  3. I understand that Groupon got caught in the web of political correctness and hope to recoup their image by donating enough money. However, as a person who was favorably inclined to be part of Groupon, unless you man up and accept that you blew it with this one, you are no better than cigarette industry people who donate money to cancer. We do not need more yahoos making crude jokes at the expense of those involved in life and death strruggles. PLease fire the person responsible for that commercial.

  4. Am I missing something?! or people are super uptight and really extra-self righteous now days. I love these ads. Not only they are humorous, they are showing the causes in a way that’s memorable.

    How many people wake up saying, ” Let me watch some misery, torture and pain this morning”? Wouldn’t people rather watch this ad, save money, then donate the difference to actually do something about the misery, torture and pain in the world?

    As you mentioned, viewers might need a bit of spoon feeding “Deforest yourself ladies with this coupon, and maybe if you care, pls donate the difference to save our beloved rainforest”

  5. PCC:

    Believe that is what Groupon should be kicking themselves for, not making it easy to donate at the end.


  6. I agree with what the viewer Vinod said, in that the ads did not explain Groupon’s intentions even remotely clearly. If they had, however, perhaps more people would have overlooked the poor attempt at humour to focus on the issues at hand.

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