Our Super Bowl Ads, and How We're Helping These Causes

I’ve been spending the day listening to the negative feedback about our Tibet Super Bowl commercial, and want to take a crack at explaining why we created this campaign.

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 [SaveTheMoney.org](http://savethemoney.groupon.com/). Groupon’s roots are in social activism – we actually began as cause-based website called [The Point](http://www.thepoint.com), and we continue to use Groupon to support local causes with our [G-Team initiative](http://www.groupon.com/g-team). In our two short years as a business, we’ve already raised millions of dollars for national charities like Donors Choose and Kiva.

When we think about commercials that offend us, we think of those that glorify antisocial behavior – like the scores of Super Bowl ads that are built around the crass objectification of women. Unlike those ads, no one walks away from our commercials taking the causes we highlighted less seriously. Not a single person watched our ad and concluded that it’s cool to kill whales. In fact – and this is part of the reason we ran them – they have the opposite effect.

The firm that conceived the ad, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, strives to draw attention to the cultural tensions created by brands. When they [created this Hulu ad](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1m71m-LBqFQ), they highlighted the idea that TV rots your brain, making fun of Hulu. Our ads highlight the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues, making fun of Groupon. Why make fun of ourselves? Because it’s different – ads are traditionally about shameless self promotion, and we’ve always strived to have a more honest and respectful conversation with our customers. We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes – even if we didn’t take them as seriously as we do, what type of company would go out of their way to be so antagonistic?

We took this approach knowing that, if anything, they would bring more funding and support to the highlighted causes. That’s why organizations like Greenpeace, buildOn, The Tibet Fund, and the Rainforest Action Network all decided to throw their support behind the campaign ([read Greenpeace’s blog post here](http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/news-and-blogs/campaign-blog/save-the-whales-save-the-money/blog/33238) and the Rainforest Action Network’s post here). In fact, the feedback led us to make changes to the end of our ads that further encourage our fundraising. To that point, if the ads affected you, we hope you’ll head over to [SaveTheMoney.org](http://www.savethemoney.org) and make a donation (which we’ll match) – we’re hoping to raise a lot of money.

The last thing we wanted was to offend our customers – it’s bad business and it’s not where our hearts are.

  • Noble efforts, of course, but the Tibet ad was just really stupid and ill-advised.

    It would have helped too if the televised ads had noted the charities.

  • Your mistake was not communicating your intentions ahead of time. Most of the millions of Super Bowl viewers were unaware of your humour your CSR plan, or anything other than that you seemed to be making fun of something they considered sacred.

    I “get” the ads, now, but I have to admit that the first time I saw the deforestation online my first reaction was a superficial, negative one.

    When I watch humour, I usually know what I’m looking at. What you did would have been okay with context. Your media plan, and apparent lack of adequate advance social PR, left viewers to make their own conclusions. And now they will think you are rationalizing after the fact.

    Even this blogpost took too long. The damage was done within minutes. You cannot wait a day to respond.

    Good luck with the aftermath, though. I feel bad for you, because I truly believe that you meant well (see blog in link).

  • The problem here is that you assumed that we’re all mind readers and that we knew that there was a charitable campaign attached to the commercials. Taken at face value, these are obviously offensive, but if your ad guys had taken the time to do their job properly and let us know in the ads that we were saving money for something other than ourselves it would have been much more effective. No where in the Tibet Ad does it say that there is a partnership with the Tibet Fund and the watcher is left to conclude that you were trivializing and extremely important issue.

  • I do actually appreciate knowing the backstory here. I agree that the IDEA isn’t exactly horrible, especially as you’ve laid it out. But the finished, as-aired Tibet commercial WAS horrible. It DID trivialize the cause. That you didn’t MEAN to be offensive doesn’t mean you weren’t.

    You had what might have seemed like a good idea to you, but regardless, you bungled the execution to the point of offending people, and you need to apologize for that.

    Groupon needs to learn how to apologize. This isn’t an apology, it’s just an explanation.

  • Half-hearted apology. You even miss the target of bringing awareness to these causes as when I checked this morning, a full 12 hours after the commercial airing there was only 30 people that donated to the Tibetan Fund. Talk about probably the worst conversion rate in advertising history.

  • Glad to hear this. We were shocked when the commercial ran. We get updates from GreenPeace but missed the one about your commercials. We will definitely clarifybthis on our social media updates. A unique approach, and we can see the reasoning, but I fear that because of the typical “American’s” lack of information exposure and overall accepting behavior, this may be misunderstood. Best of luck and we will continue to be advocates for these causes.

  • And anyone who thought otherwise is/was a fool! Anyone that knows anything about Groupon knows what the true intentions of the ads were. No worries, Groupon, your ads were not lost on me!

  • I did think it was in poor taste to use emotionally-charged causes to sell coupons. Nothing in the ads suggested any type of support for the causes or encouraged donations.

    But I didn’t think it went so far as to be offensive. It was more the lack of humor. They just weren’t funny, at all. Not witty, not goofy, not high-brow etc. The writing was stake, the acting not terribly engaging. I just didn’t connect on any level.

    I think you all decided to go for shock value, and it didn’t resonate.

    BTW, trying to justify your own decisions by pointing the finger at other ads in bad taste (IE Go Daddy, which is who you were clearly alluding to) doesn’t help your case. Most of us agree those ads are lame too.

  • Sorry, but I’m crying bullshit. If you really wanted to highlight those causes, you could’ve done so in a much better way than to trivialize it (and make no mistake… you did trivialize the struggles of tibet) by comparing it to getting a deal at a restaurant.

    But hey… if you guys wanted press for your horrible ad and having that be what people remember you for, grats. Job well done. Maybe it would be more boring to do so in a classy way, but if you and your ad agency did a good job, you could’ve done it without mocking the cause.

  • I didn’t find the ads offensive at all. I think they were all funny, clever, and got their intended point across quite well. I hope this explanation helps more people understand and encourages people to make donations.

  • I for one, got it. I thought it was a great and innovative idea to raise awareness for the causes. Most of the negative feedback came from those that have NO clue what Groupon is all about. Hopefully those masses will come to the site and check out what the commercials are all about and give!

  • The backlash is crazy, and I still support Groupon… both for great deals around Chicago (or anywhere) AND for the good work you guys do! While it might not have hurt to give a few seconds to explain the tie-in between the groupons and your charity support… there will always be something that makes people upset. Keep doing what you’re obviously doing VERY well, and know how many people love your company!

  • “We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes …”

    Yet, it does, and you did.

    Nowhere in this blog entry does the word “sorry” or “apology” appear. Shame on you.

  • you’re missing the point. A super Bowl ad should never create negative images of the sponser paying for them. can be like the great ad by Chysler/Fiat “imported from Detroit” without the controversy. You’re a fine company that I use….maybe it’s time for a better ad agency.

  • Your ads did exactly what you claim here they didn’t do — trivialized the causes.

    As a consumer, if you have to write an entire blog to explain why you chose to run a certain ad campaign — if we (the consumers) cannot garner that from the actual commercial, then you have failed.

    I unsubscribed from Groupon this morning (I couldn’t last night because your site claimed it was experiencing too much traffic). I couldn’t justify supporting a company that thought those commercials were even remotely in good taste, REGARDLESS of whether or not you support the very causes you made fun of. I’ve never felt as awkward and uncomfortable during a commercial as I did watching yours.

    In a market such as yours, where there are new companies popping up all the time offering daily deals and discounts, I think you assumed too much about your audience with these ads.

    I enjoy the hulu commercials that poked fun at themselves, because that was obviously the point of the commercials. It wasn’t clear at all in these commercials, and I don’t appreciate having to look for some kind of explanation, only to be let down by your defensive tone and lack of recognition that you did indeed offend your customers.

    I’ve watched these commercials for Groupon a few times, trying to understand why I was so offended, when others were claiming Marketing Genius, and I’m still so put off by them that you will never see my business again.

    I’m a highly educated woman, and feeling the need to find explanations on the background and theory behind the commercials only makes me more offended by your ads. I felt, watching Cuba Gooding Jr’s ad, as if I were being told to ignore what was happening to the whales, and just get a super cheap chance to see them live before they’re gone.

    Despicable. I felt from the first time I saw these ads that they are bad taste, bad business, and laying far too much pressure on your viewers to understand marketing theory and strategy in order to fully appreciate your ads.

    The point of a commercial is to make your product look appealing to consumers right? Then explain to me why your ads made me unsubscribe, and choose never support your company again?

    My suggestion: Instead of defending what you thought was a good decision to the large population of consumers who don’t agree, pull the ads and issue an apology to your consumers. If you truly didn’t mean to offend your customers, you did the opposite, and defending the ads isn’t helping at all.

  • I wasn’t offended by the ad, but I did think it was stupid and humorless. A huge part of branding is conveying a personality. Clearly, you guys think you’re a lot more fun and engaging than you actually are.

  • While I can understand what you might have been aiming for, you seriously missed the mark on this one, Groupon. I don’t know of a single person who was aware of your support of organizations that seriously seek to better the world we live in. The fact that no one would have this context seems to be something that should have been more carefully considered; not that it would have made your ads any more palatable but, if you had considered it more deeply, I daresay you would have flushed this set of ads. I imagine you could have found a better way to humourously convey the values of your company in such a way that that those of us who care about global, social and moral issues can still be proud of supporting Groupon. In a world of irritating and disgusting marketing tactics that increasingly pander to the lowest common denominator of intelligence, culture, spirit and value, you would have served yourselves and your customer base so much better had you stuck out for rising above. Use humor, by all means, but at least try to be intelligent. Clever can still be stupid – and boy did you show that off! This was a shocking and disappointing Failure.

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

    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.
    The ad didn’t explain your intentions enough.

    I loved the Hulu ad that Crispin Porter & Bogusky did, but this ad didn’t have any of those same elements. Perhaps next time you need to use a larger focus group. Unfortunately the millions you spent now have been wasted.

    Good Luck trying to repair it. It’s going to be tough.

  • Dude – you’re still confused.

    As a business, you pay for advertising to build brand awareness.

    Whatever sort of meta/ironic/hipster humor you’re aiming for in these things — the bottom line is you’re pimping a 50+ year life and death struggle to build your brand.

    Is it funny? Is it incisive social commentary? Who cares?

    You’re an internet retailer piggybacking on important causes to draw more web clicks. If you’re not trivializing the causes, you’re hijacking them.

  • Groupon isn’t killing whales, deforesting forests, or anti-tibetan. This we can agree on.

    Sometimes a joke is a joke.

    I quite enjoyed the ads, and hope to see many more!

    I had no idea it was created by the same ad agency that did the hulu ads… Definitely some smart advertising.

    Oh and stop taking everything so seriously.

  • Groupon may have been well meaning, but that didn’t come through in the ads (which were a disgrace). It is a shame that Groupon is trying to justify them rather than apologizing for trivializing and even mocking such important causes. If you had actually noted the charitable cause support at the end, that would have been much better. The ad agency should be canned.

  • It saddens me that something as noble and intelligent as the superbowl ads could be misread by so many people. If you think the purpose of those ads was the same as ads by other companies you haven’t been paying any attention to the way Groupon started, the way it operates or the things it does beyond its core business.

    As an insult to the self-absorbed consumerism that goes hand-in-hand with the Superbowl (to the point that the ads have become their own feature), and as an elbow to the ribs for those of us who’ve let our activist impulses calcify by doing things like watching mass-appeal television, I thought the ads were brave and brilliant.

  • Oh, so the audience is to blame for not getting the joke? Iron rule of jokes: if you have to explain ’em, don’t tell ’em.

    Happy to see you defend your agency. That’s a menschy thing to do.

    But this was the vilest ad I’ve seen on the Super Bowl. “At least we didn’t degrade women” is setting your bar very low.

  • If you’d just once mentioned an appropriate charity in the advert, just once given a sense of direction it wouldn’t have seemed bad.

    The way they were presented was “Bad things are happening, this is how bad they are”, “Oh well, life goes on in this linked-and-trying-desperately-to-be-funny way”.

    Fire your advertising company, get someone who can actually plan a suitable campaign. The adverts will have done your brand immense damage and gained very little. Few people are going to bother checking your blog for an explanation, which means you’re dependent on social media and random people to try to do your damage control. As ‘big’ as social media is, its still a bit of a comparative clique.

  • When did the donate buttons go up on the SaveTheMoney page?

    Can’t remember them there yesterday.

  • If you have to explain a joke, then it was a bad joke in the first place. If you had simply mentioned at the end of each ad that savings could be donated to a charity, you would have spared yourself this grief. If this was a subtle attempt at humor, it was far too subtle for most of the people who watched, including me.

  • I am sorry but if you needed five paragraphs to explain your :30 commercial, you have some issues. I think a better tact would be admit that the commercial did not work, apologize and move on.

  • @patrick waters: you’re missing the point. Groupon okayed the ads that they paid to air during the Superbowl. If they want to trivialize the act of buying things in quantities to save money, then that’s their right.

    I saw what the ads were supposed to mean, and thought they were both unorthadox, and fantastic. I don’t need to be spoon-fed my entertainment, and I appreciated that you let me figure out the joke for myself.

    It’s a shame that during the Superbowl, the greatest glorification of violence, and gluttony in America, that THIS is what offended people the most.

    On a night when you have people on a field trying to cause each other brain damage, while fat beer-guzzling, chicken-wing eating fans cheer them on, I’m glad you had the audacity to challenge the American ideal.

    What’s the saddest part of all, is that the majority of people crying about how you’re trivializing the oppression of the Tibetan people, or the decimation of the rainforest (interesting that this one is taking a clear backseat to the Tibet issue in people’s eyes) would never have even considered donating money to help these worthy causes. They just seem to be upset that you pointed the mirror right at them, and showed them how trivial and greedy they’ve become.

    As a company, for you to do that, and effectively counterpoint your entire existence and relevance is an incredibly ballsy move. As an artist, I applaud you for holding the mirror up to nature, and forcing people to open their eyes.

  • If you have to explain the intent of your ad, then your ad has failed to make its message clear.

    You screwed up, and personally I find your failure out properly apologize more offensive than the ad itself.

  • Thought the ads were great. The only reason there is an issue is due to the misguided principles of political correctness and the self-righteous attitudes that result from those PC individuals.
    Goupon, make no apologies to anyone. The ads were smart, bold, and funny. Please make more ads in that same spirit and don’t let the sanctimony of the PC kill-joys interfere with your process or get you down. Thanks again for the ads.

  • I guess this backlash is what you would call “The Groupon Effect” 🙂

  • what you said with these commercials was:

    “Look, Groupon customer, we GET that you’re a shallow, materialistic consumer. We get that you probably give half a second’s interest to these very real tragedies but you’re far more interested in getting salon services. So we’re calling you out on it. You’re shallow and materialistic, customer! Haha!”

    You weren’t making fun of yourself. You were making fun of your customers, by trivializing very real tragedies.

    Admit that you screwed up.

  • Genius–you and CP+B did a great job. The Tibet ad was the closest to stepping over the line, but it didn’t. In fact, it poked fun at all the complainers on this forum and others who waste money all the time when they could be contributing their money to good causes. If people spent half the time they spend crucifying the media, working with charities, we would live in a better world. To all the haters, go out and help the world–your whining is helping no one!

  • OK Groupon, you win.

    I am clearly not clever enough to keep up with your marketing strategy. I can’t find the humor in making a parody of celebrity ads to help people and whales.

    I guess I’m just not cynical and hip enough to be your customer. I’m sure it’s not you, it’s me.


  • I’m sorry, that barely made sense. The ad was either designed to offend or conceived and approved by people unconscious of their own poor taste & insensitivity. Gross.

    This would have been a great place for a straightforward disavowal of the values underlying that ad and an apology for airing it.

    You’re digging yourself in deeper.

  • Note how the controversy was primarily over the Tibetan ad, while the other two ads had lesser drama attached? Whales and rain forests–while important to many–aren’t on the same emotional playing field as oppressed people in Tibet.

    Some of the jokes out there about Groupon doing a 9/11 ad make structural sense, yet I can only imagine if a foreign company tried that, people here would have become seriously unglued.

    I’m not a user of Groupon (or their competitors), however I was passively aware of the service. Only by accident did I know in advance that there was a charity attached to the concepts.

    While not overtly offended by the ads, they (and your responses about them) are my first formal introduction to your company.

  • There is a big problem in our society, which is that people are very self-interested and can’t take serious problems seriously. This ad reinforced that problem in the people I was watching it with, in several people whose responses I’ve read on Facebook, and I’m sure with many, many, others. The fact is, the ads did not have the effect you claim they were meant to have, and to say “oh well, you all just took it wrong” doesn’t make it any better – if anything it makes it worse.

    “Not a single person watched our ad and concluded that it’s cool to kill whales.” – No, but people felt validated for not caring about or empathizing with Tibet.

    “We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes…” – Even if that’s true, and I’m not sure it is, they certainly DID have that effect, and you haven’t responded to that. Are you going to try to rectify that by telling people who feel these problems are trivial that they’re not?

    “… even if we didn’t take them as seriously as we do, what type of company would go out of their way to be so antagonistic?” – One that thought it could profit from doing so, and maybe you have, so congratulations. Now either get on a high horse or stop pretending to be on one.

  • Although I do understand how people were offended by the commercial, as I was a bit confused also, had anyone known about the save the money campaign it definitely would have helped. In Groupon’s defense, some people did know about the campaign..as I was one of them. I read about it on Saturday. So they WERE trying to advertise their campaign. It may not have reached everyone, but this campaign is not something they just started to try to save face.

    All in all, the commercial was definitely terrible and confusing. On the same note, I think the save the money campaign is a great idea and will be amazing! Good job tackling all the heat that has been going on today as I’m sure there has been a lot.

  • Regardless of if you supported the causes before or after the ads ran and the backlash began, ALL of the ads – not just the one around Tibet – were offensive. “Somebody’s gotta save ’em – but it’s more fun watching them jump” – I can see how if you know where you’re coming from you’d get that it’s sarcasm, but for the majority of people watching the commercial you just don’t get that message.

    What makes me upset is not necessarily the poor taste with these commercials, but that this is the response from groupon instead of a sincere apology to those of us who use groupon (and the rest). A company should be grown enough to realize when they’re wrong and should just take their lumps and apologize with an explanation, instead of trying to reason and plead your case that the commercials were good.

    Sorry, Groupon, I love your service and have been using it for quite some time, but you’re in the wrong here – and you should apologize.

  • As I watched the commercial, I knew exactly what you were trying to do. And, I happen to be a fan of really irreverent and inappropriate humor (I, for one, LOVED Ricky Gervais at The Golden Globes). I still had major problems with the ad.

    The commercial failed to make the shift from shock to hilarity that is necessary to pull of that kind of humor. Bottom line: it wasn’t funny. Inappropriately or otherwise.

    You have certainly achieved your mission – I bet a lot of people have learned about the crisis in Tibet today, and that is certainly a good thing. But at what cost to your business and your brand?

    At this point, the only thing that is going to keep me as a customer is a statement from The Tibet Fund saying they signed off on the ad before it aired (not the campaign, the specific ad). That may be an unreasonable expectation, but it’s how I feel.

  • Ye Gods. I have to agree with Tom Megginson, a commenter above, that a customer’s initial reaction is extremely important. SuperBowl advertising is outside your clique of socially conscious people who are in-the know, so your ads should definitely have taken that into consideration. I am a newer member as well, and was somewhat unaware of the company’s social agenda, so the commercials also took me aback. Unfortunately the juxtaposition of the most serious of issues not with the absurd (that would have been funny), but with the self-serving, trivial and commercial, just (initially) made me feel like Groupon is a company that goes out of its way to capitalize on the misfortunes of others. That’s the initial reaction, the WTF reaction, that I had.

    Of course, if that’s what you’re looking for, then by all means.
    This said, I went and looked around at your site’s greater purpose and learned a bit that’s quite nice, but I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts the average SuperBowl fan won’t take the time to do that research.

    The commercials weren’t at all funny for someone who is unfamiliar with the deeper reputation of Groupon. It’s a shame you guys didn’t stick with the Groupon Addict ad. It was interesting, funny towards the mid to end, and left me feeling very positive and curious about your company.

    I’m not giving up my membership over this, but at times like these I wish I were in the position to just throw good money away too.

    The thing is this: No one’s going to believe you didn’t mean to go after all this “bad press” with these terribly insensitive commercials unless you actually apologize and do lots of visible good will to make up for it.

    One of the first things a Web designer learns about user perception is that first impressions make a difference..that a user will either stay or click away after just seconds. Your company is Web-based. I think you should probably, in the future, try to incorporate this approach to your offline pursuits as well.

    And also, your Website could use a little tweaking. I couldn’t easily locate the forum alluded to on the contact page…no link to it.

    You might want to make that easier to find.

  • Sorry, I missed the part about your matching donations. Good. But the apology still has not been offered.

  • You speak of these high-minded goals for the ad, but in truth they make no indication about the charities and initiatives they are connected to. How would anyone know how to get to savethemoney.org without your post? Additionally, the Hulu commercial is a silly comparison. That was not done in poor taste. Yours was. If the goal was indeed as high-minded as you say, I would think you might want to be more explicit in what you’re doing instead of saying nothing at all in the ad.

  • How is Elizabeth Hurley in a bathrobe talking about bikini waxes not crass and not objectifying? Why wasn’t she the one in the restaurant or about to board the boat?

    Sorry, but trying to the point the finger at anyone – other commercials, your ad agency, your roots, is stupid. Your story keeps changing.

    Own up to poor judgement and a lame sense of humor. Try apologizing.

  • I can see what you are saying yet that is not how it communicated to me and obviously many others.

    The real question is… was it worth it?

  • this blog post from your CEO is as tone deaf as the ad itself. if you have to explain the joke, it just wasn’t funny, and self-parody only works when you’re well known enough so that everyone is in on the joke. too clever by half.

  • I loved the commercial. I thought it was one of the better ones this year. Don’t believe all the negativity.

  • You missed the boat. If your intention was to bring awareness to the issue then you should have done that. Your ads were insensitive to say the least, and sadly too many Americans do exactly what your ads portrayed…showing suffering then turning a blind eye and taking care of number one. Eating and pampering oneself. You should be donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to these causes, and then keep doing it. How much did you spend on that ad campaign? Sad.

  • Whatever you tried to do, you did it wrong.

    Thanks for the explanation, but no thanks for the non-apology.

    You did that wrong too.

  • This is the email I sent Groupon today…

    Dear Groupon Management,

    I’m a fan of Groupon and was very disappointed to see your Super Bowl ad.

    To make light of a terrible situation in Tibet where cultural, religious, and ethnic persecution regularly occur, is deplorable. Not only was your ad the epitome of bad taste it was also a very poor marketing decision. It would not surprise me if there are calls to boycott Groupon.

    It is my sincere hope that your organization will recognize your error and communicate to the public at large that the ad was a mistake in judgment. Further, I encourage Groupon to create an advertisement in public support of the native people of Tibet.

    I realize that this message may first be read by someone in a contact center – I would appreciate it if the first reader would forward this to the company’s senior management.


  • Can I get a “YIKES” up in here? I only heard of Groupon a few weeks ago, when a writing job on Craigslist spun me into imagining myself a black, middle-aged female version of Dennis Miller spewing more smoke and rat-a-tat than a 20 year old carburetor.

    Aah, but the moment passed. “Oh yeah, Groupon”, I recalled last night after the primetime Tibet spot. Then, sheer puzzlement…I LIKE Tim Hutton. I LIKE the much-imitated Groupon sales model: Lively writing, discounts, and a cooperative vibe. Brilliant!

    So what the hey happened? In a nutshell, Americans like to think of ourselves as good, generous, & caring. Your intention couldn’t have been to say, “Sure, you like the whales/oppressed nations/the Amazon forest, but you LOVE a cheap deal!”


  • I was absolutely exhilarated by the spot and thought it was both brave and skillful.

    What do people expect – it was a commercial, not a public service announcement, so at some point it had to cut to a message from the sponsor.

    You have to be more invested in “righteous indignation” than truth to miss the point that you can’t erase twelve seconds of truth with a dumb joke.

    I’d never noticed the company Groupon before that commercial. Now I’m unlikely to forget them.

  • I don’t really care what GroupOn’s intentions were, to be honest.

    I found the ads hilarious and edgy.

    I also found them thought-provoking because the issues they highlighted are important ones which people (myself included) often take for granted. The fact that ad was jarring was, in my opinion, it’s brilliance.

    It made me laugh, and then feel bad and thoughtful about the fact that I laughed.

    Mission accomplished, I think.

  • This ad made my blood BOIL. I have been to Tibet and know how much the people of Tibet suffer under the oppressive Han Chinese regime.

    I was angry with Hutton for doing it. I was angry at Groupon for airing it. I will actively boycott and encourage others to boycott anything to do with you or Hutton in the future.


  • In all of this the a line from This is Spinal Tap keeps popping into my head: “There’s a fine line between stupid and clever.”

    The Tibet ad, in particular, was stupid. Hey, everybody, the Tibetan people are being totally oppressed, get a coupon to save half off a meal from people who managed to escape the oppression! Yeah!

    How in the world did this seem like a good idea to anyone? That you received such negative feedback and you truly don’t seem to appreciate why makes me wonder about the overall intelligence of your decision makers at Groupon.

  • The Damage was done no matter how fact you acted, the world saw what the did and were offended. I’m now wondering why this pretigious PR/ AD company thought this would fly in your favor. Good luck with your damage control efforts.

  • After reading this blog, I decided to leave Groupon for good. To my disappointment, no hearted apology from this blog. Ill-advised marketing reflects ill-organized business.

  • “We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes.” I honestly believe that you didn’t intend to trivialize the causes. I know your company’s background. I work in an office of mostly 20-somethings and could imagine that the culture is even similar and that you legitimately care in words and practice. But you’re not understanding why people are offended. It’s not because we didn’t “get it.”

    It fails at your intent. The ads don’t appear to “make fun of Groupon” in light of a serious cause. Rather they play off cultural cause fatigue and welcome apathy and appear to celebrate cynicism and self-servitude. Regardless of your worldview and concern being different from this outlook, that’s the result; that’s what people saw. If 9 out 10 commenters took offense, then offense was your message regardless of intent.
    You buried the lead. It was difficult to even find SaveTheMoney.org. It was nowhere in the commercial and difficult to find on your site. Only after the backlash did it become visible and communicated.
    I’m not going to say that your matching gifts aren’t a positive thing, because clearly they are and I know the beneficiaries are grateful for your generosity, but you spent a fortune on those ads (what is it these days, like $5K/frame?). $400K donated pales in comparison. Wasn’t there a better approach, better balance?
    Finally, nowhere is there a “We are sorry.” Your message just looks like a statement telling your customers that if only they had your perspective, knowing what you know, they wouldn’t have reacted as such, and are therefore ultimately wrong. Until an actual apology happens expressing culpability over condescension, I’m content with having unsubscribed and will continue to recommend to my friends that they do the same and patronize your competitors.

    I hope you do continue to highlight causes regularly (with better thought out messaging). It would’ve been great to have seen city groupons available for local/national/int’l charities or other possible tie-ins in the past. Perhaps if this had been in place before, that would’ve been the hallmark of your brand (as your roots conceived) and we would have drawn the conclusions you say you intended in the first place. In the end this is all just sad.

  • I just don’t get it, I see commercial after commercial showing men being dumb; forgetting anniversaries, birthdays, not knowing how to boil water, watch the kids, wash clothes you name it. I also see commercial after commercial that make women look like evil, mean witches; yelling at their husbands/boyfriends, complaining of how their men can’t do anything right, poking fun at their men, etc. I also see commercials in which kids are telling their parents what to do, what car to buy, that their embarrassed to be seen in particular cars, that their parents are stupid and even a series of commercials in which a baby is going to tell me how to invest my money (granted they crack me up!); but I am still subjected to these. Men, women and children are constantly being objectified in commercials, but now all of a sudden it’s not okay? What gives? What about the Pepsi commercials in which the black woman kept taking junk food from her black husband and then threw a Pepsi can at him when he was looking at a cute blonde only to have him duck and hit the blonde and knock her to the ground; do folks think that was racist too? Seriously get real folks!

  • If there had been a closer on the ads that suggested you were just kidding, or anything about the real donation opportunities behind the campaign, that would have been different.

    As aired, though, the ads had not one bit of content to direct us towards the truth behind them.

    We viewers were left to take them at face value – as very distasteful attempts at humor, with no redeeming qualities.

    With just a little more effort, this could have been one of the most brilliant campaigns to air during this year’s Superbowl. Too bad you didn’t go there.

  • You can’t have a kneejerk reaction without a jerk, kiddo.

    You’re personally profiting off a cynical attempt at drawing attention to your own charity affiliates in a way that will also be profitable to you. There are many other charities that don’t rely on flashy multi-million dollar ads, and many charities that would have spent that money ON CHARITY INSTEAD, rather than running the ad.

    To wit, many of these charities have administrative costs that are lower than your own personal take from your shady money-grab.

  • It’s a great commentary on our culture that a :30 advertisement generates more moral outrage than the actual evils that are perpetrated against people and planet on a daily basis.

    We just got a nice big shiny mirror shoved in our faces. Pretty, isn’t it?

  • I have to say that I find this blog post akin to the, “But some of my best friends are Black” defense for racism.

  • The ads were just plain stupid! I think you should fire your agency and demand your money back! They severely miscalculated this one! Just look at the backlash. It’s a tragedy to exploit all those causes to gain the attention of your audience. My God… what has this whole thing come to?

  • The Tibet commercial was not funny, effective, or thoughtful, just offensive. Horrible execution. You should be apologizing. You may have intended a positive message, but you utterly failed.

  • “Unlike those ads, no one walks away from our commercials taking the causes we highlighted less seriously.” -this blog post

    “..someones got to save them [whales]. But it’s more fun watching ’em jumpin’…” Cuba Gooding Jr. in a life vest and oversized binoculars around his neck.

    “save the money” – tag line at the end of the commercial.

    I would have to disagree. The ads appears to poke fun of people concerned about saving the whales and implies saving money on boat tours is as important.

    I just assumed you all at Groupon are expanding into the red states and are trying to downplay your hipster roots.

  • I appreciate you guys explaining your choice on the ads. However, if you wanted to mock/joke yourselves… it would have been best to start with something goofy about Groupon then cut to the serious nature of the causes you featured.

    Reversing the order and starting with a serious issue and cutting to the goofy nature of Groupon was a mistake that simply makes it look like you’re mocking these causes.

    It was a mistake to run those ads.

  • Douchey. That’s probably the best way to describe what I think about Groupon right now. Seriously, what was going on in the meeting room when you were reviewing all of these ads. Based on the previous post, I’m assuming everyone in the room laughed at them and thought they were great, which only means that the decision makers in your company have the sense of humor of a child. Worst of all, you hired one of the douchiest ad agencies in the country. Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the same idiots that made the Microsoft Seinfeld commercials. I know they’re all about “creating conversations” but their idiots and never think about creating the right conversation. Look at the Volkswagon Superbowl commerical. It created a conversation and it was all in good taste. It created the perception that Volkswagon was a likeable company. Your commercials just communicated to me that Groupon is composed of a bunch of sophmoric idiots that are trying so hard to be liked that they’ll stoop to any level to get us talking about you. Sadly, what you didn’t realize is everyone is already talking about you and you already had an awesome reputation. Now you just flushed it down the toilet. Oh and good job of throwing Crispin Porter + Bogusky under the bus and calling them out in the post. Seriously, own your decisions and the mistakes you make.

  • Intent aside, your ads were still offensive. If you made the ads with the intent of raising money for Tibet or Brazil, your ads could have said “Tibet is in trouble. Use Groupon and a portion of the sales will go to X organization.” The ad would have cost the same amount of money to produce, but your message would have been more clear.

    Big cosmic fail on your part. I will never use Groupon again.

  • Seriously, this isn’t that big of a deal. I watched the ad, and honestly its not that much worse than anything aired past 9pm in terms of what’s in ‘good’ or ‘bad’ taste. I think that people just need to man up and realize it really is just an advertisement and its not really forcing you to watch it. I don’t even use groupon but I think that this public uproar is ridiculous and uncalled for.

  • Your heart may be in the right place but your head is all wrong. These ads damage your brand.

    It seems to me that you are a novice at advertising and/or were misled by your ad agency.

    These are bad ads that really hurt your brand equity. Groupon offers many benfits that can be presented in more engaging and positive ways.

    I doubt anyone would be triggered to support one of the causes you made fun of because of your ad.

  • You still don’t get it.

    You used the people of Tibet to try to build your brand. That’s inappropriate and crass, no matter how you try to explain it away.
    This is your brand image now to me and untold others: Groupon is the 14-year-old kid who thinks it’s hilarious to make fun of other people’s misfortune.
    You’ve just given a black eye to the nonprofit sector you claim to support. Most viewers understood you as saying that these causes like these, and the people who support them, are worthy of mockery at best, and harmful, stupid PC nonsense at worst. You’re going to have to work hard to make up for that damage.

  • I think the ads did exactly what you want ads to do: they caught my attention, surprised me, made me laugh, made me feel glad about being part of Groupon (even though I’ve yet to take advantage of a single offer, I’ve been receiving your emails for about a month), and then, after hearing all this brouhaha, made me inquire further. “No such thing as bad publicity” may be a truism but is also, I think, true. A guy on AM talk radio mentioned Groupon this afternoon (ranting about how he “just didn’t get it”), which would probably have never happened if you had run “safer” or “more responsible” ads. The Tibet ad was hands down my favorite of the night — and if that means my sensibilities run counter to those of mainstream America, well… I’m o.k. with that. Congratulations Groupon for making such a big splash

  • Unfortunately you cannot expect your audience to know anything or even care about the philanthropic nature of Groupon, nor can you assume that they will appreciate the intended meaning. I love a good satire, but its best followed through with clarification when it hits so close to such an emotionally charged and traumatic event. You tried to be witty and clever, but it came across to many people as insensitive

    I think a genuine apology/acknowledgement on major news sources would be appropriate.

  • The emperor has no clothes! I love how many of the “enlightened ones” claim, after reading this post, that they loved the ads, the campaign was so brilliant, etc. BS!

    Crispin Porter created at best a confusing and humorless campaign for you. CPB’s well known for advancing their own fame over the marketing interests of their clients, and you guys fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

    Suck it up, issue a real apology, and give each non-profit the full $100K (or more!) today! Don’t make the donations hinge on the actions of your users, just cut the check. That action would go a long way toward restoring your reputation.

  • Funny thing about humor – the comedian doesn’t have the final say in what’s funny. He can try to be funny, but in the end, it’s the audience that decides what’s funny and what isn’t. The same is true of advertising in that the audience decides what ultimately makes a good, effective commercial and what doesn’t. You might think you’re poking fun at yourselves with these ads, Groupon, but the real message you’re sending is “What’s going on in Tibet is sad and all, but dang, CHEAP EATS, MAN!”

    To put that another way, your noble intention of creating awareness for these causes is drowned out by the much louder and more enthusiastic message of materialism and self-absorption. If that’s not the message you wanted to get across, then perhaps paying a little less attention to it would have been a better approach.

  • Groupon’s roots may have been in social activism, but perhaps you are forgetting, or too close to it to see, that you are now speaking from the position of a pretty large American corporation. It’s a different position to be speaking from. The ads came off like a bit like you were making fun of the causes rather than Groupon.

    Thanks for explaining your thinking though. Good to do that.

  • I’m a Tibetan from Boston and an active member of the Tibetan freedom movement. When I saw the ad live, I was so pumped. As an activist I know how difficult it is to bring forth the atrocities caused by the Communist Chinese Party. Thanks for the spotlight. My initial reaction was not even close to being offended, but I can understand why some are. However, to me, the “randomness” of putting Tibet in the ad, made it even more compelling. Just one question though…..fish curry?

  • So I’m curious – how were new viewers who have no experience with Groupon (presumably the target audience for a Super Bowl advertisement) supposed to know about the company’s culture, history and background, and oh yeah, a campaign that was not linked to or otherwise indicated in the advertisement? Telepathy?

    Furthermore, you are not offering an apology here. This post is an explanation and a justification, but you’re doing to classic “well if this upset you I’m sorry you’re upset” non-apology. You’re not apologizing for your actions. You’re not apologizing for your misjudgment. You’re not apologizing for somehow thinking that linking your company to a point of view minimizing and trivializing colonialism and genocide was a good idea.

    “I’m sorry you feel that way” blames the person offended, rather than accepting responsibility for a really bad decision.

    (And since apparently in order to have a valid opinion on the topic, I am a Tibetan Buddhist who has used Groupon off and on for a year, will not be using it in the future, and spends money and time advocating for a free Tibet. Sheesh.)

  • I think the best thing you guys can do – despite the money dropped – is drop the campaign, or at least the Tibet one. It was brilliant in that it struck so many nerves, unfortunately for many too many of the wrong ones. In a few weeks try a new angle, and hope for better results. It sucks that a commercial with an actual rather than the typical superficial dribble drew such ire, but people were ready to have their sympathies twisted in this angle. Good luck and keep the deals coming.

  • The commercials worked great.

    Only the pissy people come here to complain. Like a puppy peeing on newspaper, it’s the only way they know to relieve their conscious.

    The door’s thataway, Rover.

  • I am glad to hear the backstory, but wasn’t offended at all. I do support causes such as these, and think that anything that brings focus to them is a good thing.

    I do wonder how many of those “outraged” have thought of any of those causes this year before the Super Bowl.

    I agree that some more press before the game would have helped deflect negative press (and perhaps turned it overwhelmingly positive), but I thought they were cleaver and really got us thinking of not only Groupon, but the causes — the whole point.

    Thanks for trying to be a good business and a good member of the community.

  • I work in Marketing, have produced several Superbowl ads, and thought you were completely off the mark. Why would you ever want your brand associated with anything negative as your first foray into mass awareness. In addition, I understand that international expansion is probably a key strategy, Brazil and China are probably pretty critical pieces of that and you have great fodder for their governments to make incorporation more difficult. Not smart business.

  • Enough already! Stop with the explaining, the justifying, the self-congratulatory back-patting about how socially conscious Groupon really is and how much you give to worthy causes. Fine, fine, we get it.

    But your Tibet ad still crossed the line. And it wasn’t even close. Are you reading the posts here? Do you see how offended Americans are? (Just imagine how offended Chinese are — though for other reasons. Good luck breaking into that market now.)

    What you need now is to shut up with the justifications and say simply: We’re sorry. Abjectly, clearly, without equivocation, just admit that you engineered a screwup of epic proportions and promise to do better in the future.

    If you don’t do something very dramatic — and very soon — this ad campaign will be taught in business schools for decades … right after a chapter on New Coke. Get a clue and get it fast. That’s my advice.

  • I’m sorry, since when is “if you have to explain a joke, it’s a bad joke” been a thing? If I have to explain a punchline to you, I’m not going to apologize that you’re not intelligent enough to get it, friends.

    When was the last time half of these people complaining about these ads thought about Tibet before these ads? The last time they were shining their “Free Tibet” pins and attending an “Amnesty International” meeting their freshman year of college?

    Wipe those outraged looks off your faces and shut up. Groupon should not apologize because Groupon did nothing wrong.

    People sure are good at wearing T-shirts, but unless you’re willing to do something constructive about these causes, whining about a company who’s donating money is pretty fucking useless.

  • Although your ad was in bad taste with non-Tibetan fish curry, I kinda liked it later when I saw the Tibet Fund project of Youth employment behind it. Tibetans do need help when it comes to youth education, counseling and placements in exile and for that Tibet Fund needs charitable help from companies like Groupon.com and many others. Thank you for bringing the ‘ Tibetan tragedy’ for :30 sec. to the most watched game ever in US.

    Do not forget TIBET once this is all over!

  • If you have to explain it, then you know that it was a massive fail. Expected much more out of you.

  • I laughed pretty hard when I saw the ads and didn’t really feel the need for an “explanation” or a mediating fundraising campaign. The latter is awesome, but I would have liked the ads “as is” even without the accompanying fundraising campaign.

    After all, the game sucked and most of the commercials sucked, too. Almost everything about that vapid night of mindless entertainment was entirely forgettable, and had there been a different kind of ad mentioning Tibet (say a serious fundraising ad funded by a charity), I guarantee you absolutely nobody would be talking about Tibet today.

  • it’s like telling an inside joke to a 5 people who get it and then opening the auditorium doors to let thousands of outsiders in, repeating the same joke on stage and expecting the previous response from the crowd. Just seems like there was a major dearth of common sense here (was BP involved by chance?). Andrew, mad respect to you for creating a kajillion dollar company and winning CEO of the yr award at Crunchies but it’s just 5 shades of strange that you would expect this to have any other outcome than the reaction you’re getting.

  • It’s so nice to hear people talking about Groupon instead of Tibet, Tibet, Tibet all of the time. I mean really – weren’t we all getting sick of the constant chatter about about how we can help Tibet and the plight of the Tibetan people? Oh wait…that never happened. Until today. Now everybody’s mad at Groupon and all of the sudden everybody cares about the whales and Tibet.

    I actually didn’t think the ads were terribly entertaining, but they struck me enough to go to your site and find out what they were really about. I’d never used Groupon before and I’d never donated to a Tibetan cause…I did both last night. I wish you the best of luck in the future and thank you for opening my eyes to a cause that I knew very little about.

  • It’s very novel to use advertising to draw attention to separate, laudable causes by poking fun not only at the company itself, but the culture of consumerism that is partly responsible for making the company a success.
    Considering this, I can’t say it surprises me that the audience mostly didn’t get it; I too was confused and a little put off until I read the explanation here.

    To be self-deprecating just goes so entirely against what we expect from advertising that the irony of the humor really gets lost. A lot of people won’t be able to see past the regular point of advertising as a way of promoting a company, and they will believe that Groupon is trying to promote itself by flippantly mocking serious causes. And even if they do get it, there’s always the chance that they take offense at the implicit critique of their consumerism.

    Nevertheless, the anger and cynicism on display in some of the reactions to this ad campaign is remarkable (even taking into consideration the diversity and enormity of the Super Bowl audience). I just hope that the response of those offended goes beyond complaining to Groupon and taking umbrage, and somehow results in finding a positive way to do something substantial to help those worthy causes they believe are being disrespected.

  • If you think Andrew’s agenda is to sell coupons, you’re way off base. Not mentioning Groupon’s support of these causes is not the issue here. The issue is that Groupon nailed all of us (including themselves) for being lazy hypocrites. And, based on the responses here, we can add reactionary to that list as well. Here’s the message I took away from the Tibet spot: “Coupons and Doritos and Volkswagens are stupid. You don’t need them or even really want them. There are important things you should be thinking about and doing, but instead you’re watching a stupid commercial during a stupid game.” [Cue some ad involving naked women and.or a guy getting hit in the balls].

    To mock themselves, their customers and millions of unwitting viewers with such alacrity is a bold slap in the face to people like us. And it’s one that we need more often.

    It’s also an absolutely terrible way to sell coupons that no sane person trying to sell coupons would do intentionally if selling coupons was something they were actually trying to do.

  • I don’t think an explanation or apology was necessary.

    But I also think they were bad advertisements, and I don’t really believe there was any higher-level, well-plotted mass manipulation going on.

    The company was launching itself into the mainstream. It needed attention and hype beyond what an ad on its own can create. You achieved that.

    The other stuff you’re selling with this blog- not buying it. Hopefully, your next set of ads are better.

  • I thought they were the 3 best commercials aired on TV in 30 years (since the 1984 AAPL ad).

    I’d been intending to sign up, this pushed me over the edge.

    And I wouldn’t listen to all the critics on this site and I the MSM. Just watch the page views and sign ups. Those metrics will provide much better insight I to how the ads were perceived by ordinary folks than any log posts.

    Btw, the commercials were beautifully done. The photography was amazing and the subtle details were spot on (eg, the sound of wax being ripped off the skin – and concomitnt gasp – during LIz Hurley’s monologue).

    They really were brilliant.

  • One more thing… Groupon using Tibet in the context of a joke beats our government’s deafening silence on the topic any day. I mean seriously… everyone is just SO offended, but clearly not offended enough to do the first f’ing thing about it.

    I mean let’s put our cards on the table here: I bet few, if any of you, have donated a single second of your life working for a charitable cause benefiting Tibet, nor donated a single penny of your money to the Tibetan cause, but you’ve spent a cumulative ten minutes or more voicing your indignation about this ad.

    Clearly we’ve all got our priorities straight.

  • So much money and opportunity to do something interesting, entertaining, and worthwhile…all wasted on C-list celebrities and a “wacky” ad agency. You brag about dropping millions, then say, “ooh ooh, but we’re gonna give these charities $100,000! c’mooonnnn, we’re nice!”

    On top of that stupid poop, the site’s design and interface is mediocre, and couldn’t even handle traffic before the ads played, let alone after.

    Groupon is an amazing idea, and a catchy name, that’s why it’s popular…not because of the smug copy attached to the deals. I don’t actually know anyone who thinks your “peculiar” sense of humor is funny, and I’m in the comedy business.

    You should’ve had an old man fart out a cloud that said “Groupon”, with a tag line of “we gave Tibet 5 million dollars before you even met us!”

    So obvious. Get cooler, dudes. seriously.

  • Sadly this all sounds like a big pile of viral marketing …. Negative always equals positive…picking you market seems to have paid off by having everyone talking about groupon…

  • Here’s how it went down in my house:

    The Tibet ad came on, the first part was great, then switched to the “funny” part. My wife has never heard of Groupon and she thought it was totally tasteless and offensive. I myself signed up for Groupon a few months ago and I tried to explain that Groupon is probably actually supporting these causes. However, there was nothing in the ads to back me up, so my argument was lost, and now my wife thinks Groupon is stupid and insensitive and she’ll never use it.

    Your mistake was 1) assuming that everyone knows what Groupon is and what they’re about and 2) not explaining at the end of each ad what was really going on.

  • “The last thing we wanted was to offend our customers.” – You still don’t get it, right? It’s not that you offended customers. It’s that you offended people struggling for their existence… and their cause. Essentially, you decided to work with a questionable ad agency to create “controversy”, with the expectation to generate more web traffic. The additional revenue would easily make up for the change you’d donor via the matching program, essentially silencing any critiques. Just “too bad” it did not work out as planned… Reminds me of the Benetton ads featuring HIV patients. Bad taste, bad business.

  • Your explanation here really concerns me. After a day of listening to negative feedback, you apparently still haven’t heard a good chunk of us.

    We got the joke. We understood where you were coming from. We know you meant to raise awareness, we know you grew out of the point, and we know your hearts were probably at least partly in the right place. And yet we are still very angry and actively campaigning for your boycott.

    Ask yourself if it would be OK to make the same smarmy joke using 9/11. Perhaps the imagery of people tumbling through the air to their deaths could be interrupted with a brusque segway into group discounts on gymnastics lessons, but of course, in the end you could direct people to a 9/11 firemans charity.

    The reason it’s not OK to use 9/11 in that way is the same reason what you did with Tibet is unacceptable. While it may be a “cause” to you, Tibet is not an abstract concept for which you should get that smug self satisfaction of “making a difference” when being a armchair activist raising money or buying awareness-raising T-shirts.

    The occupation is Murder. Rape. Torture. Genocide.

    The deaths of 1,207,387 people in Tibet is to be treated with the same respect you would afford the 2,699 victims who died on 9/11. Do Tibetans deserve any less respect?

    Although this will undoubtedly raise money for Tibet, why would you ever use their plight to indirectly generate profit? We’re not stupid. If it wasn’t to generate profit, you would have just donated the 3 million instead of spending it on the ad.

    I believe you owe the world an apology. Raising awareness doesn’t give you a free pass to turn rape and torture into a joke.

  • You guys might be right.

    I came to your site looking to find an apology. Instead, I found you’ve posted some self-justifying tripe, which of course made me angrier.

    But then I got it. The world doesn’t care about the destruction of Tibet. Maybe the neglect is so bad that only these really obnoxious and provocative ads will make people remember Tibet.

    Sadly yes, I suppose you’re right.


  • Haters gonna hate. That’s all you need to know guys and gals at Groupon. I thought the commercials were hilarious on many levels.

    1) They highlighted important issues.

    2) They made fun of Groupon, showing that they don’t take themselves too seriously (selling group coupons is trivial in relation to the causes shown; that is the comparison you’re supposed to be taking away from the farcical juxtapositions presented in the spots, folks).

    3) Finally, they really did hold up a mirror to the sometimes rampant and disgusting capitalism of our society. Most of the people complaining, I would say, are those who are uncomfortable looking in that mirror because they don’t like what they see. Of course, the natural human reaction is to blame the mirror.

    Basically the point is that, even with the super negative “YOU GUYS ARE TRIVIALIZING THE EFFORTS OF SUCH AND SUCH!!!” reaction, the viewer has seen the commercial and immediately thought “that cause is important,” which is the base reaction that they wanted.

    Keep up the great work guys.

  • I personally would have to say that I loved these commercials. At first when I saw them, I did experience a bit of shock at the audacity of Groupon to do such a thing. But the more I watched them, the more impressed I was. Not everyday do you see a company giving American’s exactly what they deserve. The truth. People really don’t give a care about the rainforest, whales, or even tibet and as a raging activist I know. I try to tell people of the plight of things, such as the global water crisis and I constantly fall on deaf ears. What people care about is the fact that they are safe and happy. That they can watch their superbowl. These ads mocked the essence of American consumerism and the amount of people upset by these commercials just prove the concept that American’s can’t stand to have pointed out to them what selfish people they all are. No one will care about this in a week, but for one day hopefully you got someone to see what type of society we really live in. Best of luck with your endeavors and you have encouraged me to look more into your services.

    Thank you Groupon for shocking some Amerians, it’s exactly what they needed.

  • I love the ads now that I’ve thought about them. I truly think that you overestimated the intelligence of the average american (and groupon user) when making them.

    The thing that pisses me off is the armchair quarterbacks who all of a sudden come out of the woodwork and get pissed off about “trivializing” causes, when they’ve done absolutely nothing to save the whales, tibet, or the rainforest in their lifetime.

    People like believing they care, and venting on the internet is the best way to do it.

  • Unbelievably short-sighted, mis-guided, confusing, insensitive, and not funny. Where’s your fukeen compassion – and where’s your fukeen conscience – if you can’t be honest and clear when addressing an issue as sensitive, or as distressing to so many, as this one? Funny for a few of you at work, I’m sure – you made a Super Bowl ad that made fun of destroying monasteries, cultural extermination, and human rights abuse – nice goin’. And then I read today you say you are “sensitive to this cause?” Whaaaaat?

    The Tibet cause is real, which leads me to say it’s a brutal disservice to compassionate people everywhere when you present it as a Letterman/Daily Show bit. I’m angry that its a joke to people, or companies, of such great influence such as yourselves – people and companies who have such potential for motivation and mobilization, and sending a positive and clear message. Awful judgement.

  • 1) Andrew Mason exercised ridiculous judgement by paying millions to air these ads.

    2) “The feedback led us to make changes to the end of our ads that further encourage our fundraising”

    That’s MBA speak for “The original reason for these ads was shock value to get brand recognition. That backfired so now the reason we made them was…um…ah…saving the planet.”

    3) If the intent was really to help the causes they ridiculed they would have said that in the commercial.

    4) I predict that a year from now you are no longer the king of the group buying sites. There is too much competition, no brand loyalty and you just pissed off way too many people.

  • All the people coming here to say those that are frustrated or critical just don’t get the humor or aren’t intelligent enough don’t get that we can both understand the attempt at humor and still think it was a poor or offensive choice.

    Those that are saying that unless people are donors to a Free Tibet organization that they have no place in criticizing provide another false argument.

    You guys missed an opportunity here. Next time, give the full ad over to the people of Tibet. Maybe pop your donation url on the end. That ad would have made me seek out more Groupon offers instead of unsubscribing like I did after your non-apology.

  • i loved the ads. my only complaint would be overestimating the audience and not making the save the money website destination more clear. otherwise, awesome.

  • Whales are tasty. It’s really cool to kill and eat whales as same as cows, fishes and chickens. You are so inclined and shameful.

  • Don’t worry, here is the UK we totally get these ads, seems as if your intended audience is mostly made up window-lickers who need this kind of explanation to s-p-e-l-l it out to them. Even then, judging by some of the comments above that wont be enough

  • Finally (assuming my first comment-and-a-half are ever released from moderation), if we’re going to play that game, I wonder how many of the people who came here to say “WE got it! WE don’t care! Everyone else must just be self-righteous imbeciles!” thought of Tibet, the rainforest, etc. before the ads. Probably about the same percentage of people who were offended. That’s not really the the point.

    And as far as raising awareness- yes, everyone’s talking. But from all the press I’ve seen, no one is talking about how things are in Tibet or how to make it better. They’re all talking about whether Groupon is run by idiots, jerks, or geniuses. So, I don’t really think the point was to raise awareness about the issues Tibetans face, either (or if it was, FAIL). I think the point was to generate publicity for Groupon (which, duh, is the point of about 99.9% of commercials).

    And yeah, a previous commenter was right. The Tibet one IS on a different emotional playing field than the rainforest, or whales. It’s not just that that’s the one you chose to run DURING the game, although I’m sure that’s a part of negative reaction. Man’s inhumanity to man is usually more upsetting than environmental destruction. I couldn’t say whether that’s a good thing or a bad, but that’s just the way it seems to be. At least in my experience.

  • Andrew, don’t worry about it.

    As long as you and your company know where you’re going and how you’ll get there all is well.

  • Noble thought. Poor execution all the way around. You may want to do some research into the groups you are supporting. People have become much better informed about the truth behind many of these groups. You may need to step outside the Groupon Culture. Perhaps set your ego aside and strive to really give by educating yourself as opposed to shot in the dark selection of what you think your audience may want. There are more than 20 and 30 somethings that use Groupon.
    Perhaps a department that deals solely with Groupon Giving. Researching best fir causes that are not politically tied and actually get the $$ to the people in need. Let me know if you are looking for someone I would be happy to assist!

  • Groupon showed a complete disregard for the audience with these ads. One of the most basic rules of marketing is to know your target audience and take how they will perceive the content into consideration. Your target audience for the Superbowl ads was not the “enlightened” marketing professional or advertising guru, it was the demographic that isn’t social media savvy, that is there for the game, the party, good drinks, and good times.

    You expected this demographic to understand a message in 30 seconds which took you five verbose paragraphs to explain. There was no direction to the ad and it was apparent that it was grasping at whatever it could to tie the ideas together, but ultimately failed in doing so.

  • This just sounds like some lame back-pedaling to me. These are SERIOUS issues that you made light of, regardless of your “contributions” to these causes. If you took these issues seriously, especially Tibet, you wouldn’t think these were funny either.

  • People need to calm down. SERIOUSLY! These ads were creative, funny, and in my opinion, also brought some awareness to oftentimes forgotten issues.

    If you’re the type that is SOOO offended by these ads, why weren’t YOU doing something about these issues instead of sitting around eating chicken wings and wondering what great commercials this year’s Superbowl will bring.

    It’s sad that people are so caught up on political correctness that they lose sight of the bigger picture.

    I hope one day all of you cryers can start opening your minds so you can see beyond what your pea sized brain can’t see now.

  • To err is human. The press that this story has gotten in support of the Tibet more than makes up for the mistake. Time to move on.

    Groupon fan, customer, advocate.


  • Should of put the URL on the ad. Would of solved most of these miscommunication emails. This was a big miss for the ad agency. They should give you a make good for this bad press. It’s unacceptable to not have a URL in 2010.

  • I am a Tibetan youth organizer and a Groupon user and thought your ad overall did a great job. How any companies have the balls to take on sensitive social issues? There is only so much u can do in a 30 sec ad. Hope all this negative feed back doesn’t stop other companies from tackling social issues in the future. Well done for the matching donations too.

  • You’ll be spending more money for damage control. I’d like to see cnn ask the president what he thought of the commercial…

  • Think Twitter. The convoluted message you describe above cannot be conveyed in 140 characters, or in the case of a SuperBowl commercial 30 seconds. Had you simply placed the URL of the donation site throughout the commercial at the bottom of the screen it might have helped. Even if you had posted the URL in the commercial however, GENOCIDE JUST ISN’T FUNNY. It isn’t. You simply can’t spin 1 million murdered Tibetans into something funny. I never used Groupon before this and I certainly don’t plan to start now. The problem isn’t that the viewers of the commercial aren’t as intelligent as you. The problem is we’re more sensitive to other human beings than you.

  • One last thought – saying we screwed up but it’s partly the viewers fault for not being smart enough to get our joke just demonstrates how much Groupon doesn’t get it.

  • I was slightly confused at first to see a “save the whales” commercial turn facetious. I got the point right after, and thought it was an effective commercial. However, i can see why so many people could be offended. If you are one of the many offended people out there, invest some time into more productive things like actually saving the whales or spending money. You people are lame.

  • The problem with the Tibet ad and the blog post here is that you weren’t making fun of yourselves as you imply, but exploiting and making light of a horrible injustice to sell a coupon. The charity link looks like a poor afterthought. It makes me believe there isn’t anything the company wouldn’t do to get attention and make money. I’ve always loved Groupon and bought regularly, but I now have an incredibly negative opinion of the company.

  • It was very odd and unsettling to watch your megabuck SB ad awkwardly segue from references to the extremely serious issue of Tibetan refugees to a bright and chipper comment about “Hey! But they make great food!” — and a happy jump into hawking your coupon business.

    Sorry, I found that offensive, and I don’t see how thoughtful people couldn’t be. But I’m becoming a minority in this country because it annoyes me when serious social issues get reduced to some kind of private-sector money-making opportunity.

    Yee-haw. I hope you make the bucketloads of money off of your coupon sales that you hope to make. And gee, I really hope your Groupon Pad Tibetan Noodle Dish or whatever you’re so perky about is as delish as you say it is, and that it turns you into the trendy corporate topic of the moment you probably hope it does.

    But my heart is really with the displaced and the underclass, globally and in America. They have never had their problems solved by the corporate overlords that more and more control our airwaves and select our politicians … and they certainly won’t have their problems solved by your self-serving commercials.

  • I would invite you to examine your statement that you take the Tibetan cause “extremely seriously.” You clearly support the cause, but that’s different than taking it seriously. Is there a point at which something is serious enough that you don’t belittle it or treat it cynically? You obviously don’t afford Tibet the same level of seriousness as, say, the Civil Rights movement or the Holocaust. If you did, you never would have made the ad. There is a generally accepted sanctity when treating the Civil Rights movement or the Holocaust. I believe Tibet is deserving of a similar sanctity. It doesn’t mean we in the Tibet movement can’t laugh at ourselves, but it does mean that the issue is treated with a modicum of respect. If the only way you can conceive of to highlight the cause is with a crack about dying cultures whipping up a mean fish curry, that doesn’t say much for either the seriousness with which you profess to take the cause, or your creative team.

  • This is far from the first time Groupon has been in your face offensive. My first email from them contained a blog about fake pet adoptions that caused outrage.

    Amazingly it wasn’t the whale commercial that got me angry it was who they chose to ask people to donate to. Greenpeace? They have done nothing to stop commercial whaling other than waste money on more advertising. When asked to send a ship to help on the front lines this year not only did they not go but they didn’t even bother to respond. Want to save the whales? Support seashepherd.org!

    So Groupon time to throw out all your writers and do some research.

    Ohh and thanks for not reading the email I sent you and sending me an “I’m sorry you were offended”, form letter. Perhaps you wouldn’t need that kind of letter if there was some forethought used.

  • I have been involved in the Tibetan Freedom movement for years now and even spent time n Chinese jail after participating in a non-violent protest at Mt. Everest base camp in 2007. My initial reaction to the commercial was that it trivialized the Tibetan cause for commercial gain. But on second thought, I realized that over 100 million people heard the words, “the people of Tibet are in trouble, their very culture is in jeopardy” and that is exactly the opposite of what the CCP wants the world to think or know about…so in that sense it was successful for the larger Tibetan cause. I agree that a link or a word on how to donate would have been great, but compared to the other shamelessly self-promoting ads, it rose above the rest. Thanks Groupon for having the courage to bring the Tibet issue to the minds of millions!

  • It seems the people making foolish assumptions were the busybodies with nothing better to do than to get “offended” by a Superbowl commercial.

    Groupon, you’ve learned a powerful lesson: To make money, you have to kiss the ass of EVERYONE, not just the 99% of people capable of thinking.

  • So let me get this straight, making light of a people who are daily fighting to preserve their culture and identity in the face of overwhelming oppression helps them? How?

    I think you people need to get out of the office more and say talk to some Tibetans. I suspect they were not particularly amused. Ask the Dali Lama what he thinks.

    If this has been World War II, would you have made fun of the Holocaust to draw attention to it? Make no mistake, that’s what Tibet is facing. A Holocaust in that the dominant Chinese are trying to do in their attempt wipe out Tibetan identity and culture. There have been mass executions, imprisonments, destruction of holy and cultural sites and a host of other things done to the Tibetan people.Yeah, I chuckle every time I think about it.

    You were not making fun of some save the trees campaign – albeit as important as that issue might be – you were making fun of peoples attempt to survive.

    Just one more example of how insular and arrogant Americans can be.

  • I thought they were funny. Lighten up, people!

  • I can appreciate your intentions as you’ve explained them, but the fact remains that the entire thing was a huge case of bad judgement and perhaps arrogance in thinking that everyone would be on the same page with you.

  • Sorry Andrew, but you’re tone-deaf where it comes to MarCom. You can sell Groupons, and you can support social causes, but not in the same commercial. To say it’s horrible what’s going on in Tibet, and then segue into a deal on Tibetan curry is simply outrageous.

    The better way to handle the apology is a 2-page spread in the NYT and WSJ saying how committed the company is to social causes; that a portion of your revenues supports these causes; and you’ll never mix causes with commercial messages again.


  • Hey Groupon! The humor of your super bowl ads exemplified you. Don’t stop being you or apologizing for being you. This is what makes you, you and I like you.

  • Groupon seems to suffer from delusions of hilarity.

    The ad just wasn’t that funny, and the cornball humor Groupon weaves around the coupon emails is even worse.

    I’m just not interested in humor or entertainment when I open a Groupon email. I just want to evaluate today’s deal as quickly as possible.

  • I though these ads were hilarious. People are way too sensitive. Even if you weren’t actually supporting the causes mentioned in the commercials, I’d still think they were great.

  • Once again, I must make the point that these were commercials, NOT PSA. Groupon would never have been able to air them if they were PSA – So, all of you who think they should have “explained at the end of the commercial what they were really doing” WAKE UP. They were prohibited from using the air time for any political or religious causes – YET, they managed to do just that, they put the Tibetan struggle out there in front of millions of people. Just the word “Tibet” caused thousands of people to find out MORE. They accomplished their goal. Thank you Groupon for doing something very brave. You have thrown the gauntlet down, let’s see how many more will step up and take a risk like this. BRAVO!

  • I saw the ad on the news the morning after the superbowl. I could see why it would cause concern, but beyond that, the attention generated since for Group-on and the causes the company supports is enormous and relatively inexpensive. I’d say the ad campaign is a success.

  • I work in advertising myself and I know Crispin & Porter. I think you let your ad agency talk you into a concept that was more about their idea rather than clearly conveying the message.

    Your intentions are good but the execution was poor and that where you got into trouble.

  • I thought they were clever and I then went to your website and saw them again with the links to contribute. You made people think which may be the real problem

  • “The last thing we wanted was to offend our customers – it’s bad business and it’s not where our hearts are.”

    …but you did it anyway?

    And about having to explain a joke – maybe Google can help: http://tinyurl.com/6yenp8r

    About 26,700,000 results

    Attempted ad-hominems aside, the concept has been around for a while.

  • Groupon – Love your coupons and business model, but your marketing staff and ad agency are fools. Great creative doesn’t equal great advertising if the target audience doesn’t get it. Time to fire some people. Then figure out your creative brand, because the mocking of real charitable causes was a loser.

  • I think most people that are complaining are just digging too deep and need to lighten up. Sure Sure, maybe you could have pointed out the charitable aspects in the ad, but seriously…

    People need to recognize that the ads are in fact doing exactly what they were designed to do… make people TALK!

    I “got” the humor in it right away, as did most everyone else watching at our superbowl party.

    In the end, it has an extended shelf life that is better for the company, and is helping those less fortunate. Yes, it was “edgy” and maybe danced all over the line, but I find your ads were much more insightful than a bunch of half-naked women selling beer.

    Leave it to the simpletons to get offended about ideas/humor they couldn’t understand. GROUP_ON!

  • Would have understood it more if it had shown something at the end about donating to charity. It said nothing about the $15 donating thing in it. Would have been better if it had showed it was helping a charity in the end, how to help, and how groupon is helping….something like that.

  • Poor taste, poor executon, poor conversion.
    If you want to continue in this ill-advised way to satirize yourselfs be my guest but please alert the viewer to your intent and willingness to match contributions.

  • Wow – this has been fascinating, watching this unfold in the context of Groupon’s ambitions to expand to China. I operate a group buy website in China and have been following the Groupon cloning frenzy here since the first sites appeared early 2010. While I may be one of the very few who truly hope you succeed in bringing the real Groupon to China, its starting to look like a terrible train wreck from this side. Where are you getting your advice regarding how that ad would play in China?

    Now if Tibet was actually an issue/cause of concern here to Chinese people, this might have worked in your favor once the bloggers and netizens get behind you. As it is, people here are just talking about GroupOn as if you are absolutely clueless about China.

    I think your ads were clever and I respect that you took the risk in the first place. However, its hard to believe you ran a Tibet themed Superbowl ad knowing full well the damage that would do to your ambitions in China. If so, then I am in awe of what you’ve just done.

  • No matter your original intentions, the commercials clearly offended people, including many valued Groupon customers. You’re only digging a deeper hole with these defensive posts. A simple apology goes a long way!

  • The ads were intended to sew confusion and controversary, thsu generating far more bang for the buck. Your average Superbowl fan is not accustomed to irony or satire in the way presented. Sleazy, but the ads worked as intended. Har har.

  • Even with your explanation, the ads were just not funny at all. They were offensive. It’s pathetic to think that you can make a buck off other people’s suffering.

    What organization makes fun of the cause they are raising awareness/money for?

  • All you people moaning and groaning about, Oh they should have said that they were doing that, or You shouldn’t make fun they are in trouble in Tibet. Your doing exactly as they wated you to. They made the add look trivial to bring out the awareness of the cause. So all you so called concerned individuals who are complaining I bet not evn half of you have gone to donate or even thought about it. They got your attention now stop flappin your lips and help out!

  • I didn’t find the ads offensive at all, rather, I think they were clever and got their intended point across quite well. I hope this explanation helps more people understand and encourages people to make donations. I think everyone needs to relax and find something else to do with their time rather than slamming Groupon. Obviously we all watched the ads and are clear on the true message so now let’s go do something about it. Just sayin’…..

  • Terrific ads that both highlight real problems and give publicity to Groupon. Kudos for the campaign and this apology was totally unnecessary.

    To those that were/remain offended:
    What have you done for Tibet, or whales or the rainforest? What meaningful dialogue have you initiated? When was the last time you did anything other than cry foul at things that are potentially offensive to people you have never met?
    These ads do not trivialize anything, stop making things up.

  • Good intentions. Terrible execution. Fire your pr firm.

  • i don’t think you needed to explain anything or donate to any causes. The matching donations were just a bonus. You did more for social and political issues than all the other commercials combined (well, except for the darth vader VW commercial. it says be a good father. haha.)

    main point: people outraged at this are pretty simple minded.

  • Hello? Reality Check. Your ad people screwed the pooch. Plain and simple. Stop trying to spin this and APOLOGIZE.

    Because Tibet Fund is going to post a statement shortly on their website and if they reveal, however charitably, that you did not preview these ads to the intended non-profit beneficiaries for their APPROVAL, then you are going to see a whole new sh*t storm descend on Groupon.

    The argument that you are were just TOO clever with your humor is pathetic.

  • Eh, i guess some people felt like the ad was trivializing and condescending. But they don’t know most people in America can’t locate Tibet on a map.

  • the only thing you SHOULD do now is fire your agency for lack of cultural awareness.

  • Interesting attempt at satire, poorly executed, in my opinion.

  • Crispen Porter destroys brands. This “highlights cultural tension” crap is liberal arts junk used to sell the idea that it’s OK to be an asshole, and offending people is a good way to mass market a company. Fire them.

  • If the intention was good, the ad simply did not come across the way it was intended.

    No one can judge your intentions for creating the campaign, and only you and God will truly know if the above explanation is a heartfelt truth or corporate PR saving-face spin in light of the naturally poor reception of your promotion.

    Be cautious of defensively rationalizing the conception and intention of the spot, however. Those who are genuinely offended have likely passed a judgement on you and your organization that is unlikely to change.

    Others have chosen to offer their own defenses on your behalf. Don’t make it more difficult for them.

    In short, a simple, honest apology may do more to express the value you place on the humanity of your customers and prospects whom you have alienated. Unless, of course, you don’t REALLY care.

  • The only thing lamer than this ad campaign is Groupon itself. Weak sauce my friend. I’d quit my membership, if I’d ever have one.

    Where was the information telling us we could donate to the causes during the commercial? I certainly missed it, if it was there.

  • I will admit I did believe that you were serious when I first saw the ad. My jaw dropped and people started talking about the issues, which is great. I’m glad it provoked a response. I wish, though, there had been a note regarding the charities during the Superbowl. I fear many people didn’t give it another look to see that it was meant as a spoof.

  • The people that say lighten up it was just a joke are the same people that would be up in arms if they made light of troops getting wacked in Afghanistan.

    It’s always acceptable if it’s someone else tragedy.

  • Lighten up, people. These ads were lighthearted and effective. Days later, people are still talking about groupon AND the causes the ads mentioned. What other ads did that?

    If groupon had done something safe, their ads would have been forgotten before the game was over.

    Cheers to those who came up with and approved these ads!

  • Everyone that got their panties in a bunch should chill. The ad worked and you’re obviously VERY aware of what Groupon.com is all about. Today on their website you “give” $15 to Greenpeace.. and you get a $15 credit.

    I bet none of you are probably bitching out GoDaddy.com for their sexist ads that obviously objectified women. No your not. Your sacred cows were besmirched and your socially conscious dogma was kicked around. A like the whiny kid in grocery store, now you want everyone to hear.

    Please, SHUT UP.

  • Ever wonder why there’s such a huge issue with heart disease in America? After seeing the self-righteous anger on Twitter, it starts to make sense.

    Lighten up and stop getting so wrapped up in the story. Seriously, what have you done for Tibet lately? If anything, the ad served as a great reminder.

  • I honestly think that the commercials were exactly what a commercial should be: memorable and compeling. While some may retain a negative memory, I personally appreciate that there was a presentation of serious issues and a lightening of the issue with the groupon message. I have to say that a gentle reminder that there are real issues in the world is never a bad thing. The Groupon website always has had a drier sense of humor and their commercials simply perpetuated that. Kudos to the marketing group behind these yin/yang commercials that not only compelled many to refocus upon a few world issues but also to humorously segue into the real purpose of the commercial: Groupon.

  • “That you didn’t mean to be offensive doesn’t mean you weren’t.” That’s it exactly.

  • Having watched the YouTube videos of the ads just a few minutes ago I see it from both sides of the issue. I appreciate the self deprecating humor of the ad and the psychology behind it but wonder why Groupon executives didn’t consider the average mentality of a Super Bowl viewer and realize that most of the viewing audience wouldn’t get it, thus the typical Super Bowl ads that crassly objectify women.

  • Please ask Crispin to take their writer off your brand. Given the battle you’re in, you can’t afford to tarnish it.

  • Well, looks like my first comment wasn’t approved. So here’s a summary.

    85,000+ people dead in labor camps and struggle sessions is genocide, not a funny ad.

  • whatever your intentions, you
    1) did something very offensive;
    2) should have known that it would be very offensive;
    3) and didn’t apologize even after offending millions of people.

    Imagine a “joke” based on making fun of lynching, or of the holocaust. There is no inoffensive way to do this. At least have the humility to admit that you screwed up and apologize for it, rather than trying to weasel out of it.

  • I had heard of Groupon but wasn’t a customer. I am impressed both by the campaign and your response and will be a customer soon! Thanks!!

  • Hated the ad. Felt emotionally ripped off by it. Was drawn in by thinking it was about supporting the Tibetan people, who have been genocided and driven away by the Chinese. The struggle for their liberation is a serious matter. To switch to Timothy Hutton selling Tibetan food at a discount via Groupon made it the worst of the bad ads during the Superbowl. Don’t justify it. Just apologize to the Tibetan people, the viewers and Groupon consumers and reevaluate future ad campaigns to do some actual good.

  • Maybe you guys should just say, “we messed up, we’re sorry” and pull the ads?

  • I’d like to counter the tsunami of “offense” pouring out of the lemming-like public that latches on to manufactured outrage like a tick gorging itself on your blood. Not only was I not offended, I found the one ad I saw particularly funny and memorable.

    In the first few seconds of the ad, I was quite surprised. The Tim Tebow anti-abortion ad last year notwithstanding, the network broadcasting the Super Bowl routinely blocks political (and “political”) ads from being shown, not wanting to cause controversy. So my initial thought was “Really, a political ad during the Super Bowl?”

    Then came the twist, which was surprising and funny. I laughed out loud–which in no possible way denigrates the serious cause that appeared to be the subject of the ad. Anyone who suggests otherwise is being corrupted by a hive mind and is not thinking independently or rationally. (Not that there’s been much rational thinking in our country in recent years.)

    I say this as someone who is aware of Groupon, who has the Groupon app on my iPhone, but who has never (yet) bought a Groupon. I want to encourage the executives and decision-makers at Groupon to not back down, to not kowtow to the masses whose primary purpose is to drag the interesting and creative down to their level of milquetoast misery and boredom. Too many people are looking for too many reasons to be offended by events that are not actually offensive and that do not affect them, why said people stand by while poverty, political and religious oppression, lack of education, hunger, and many more real-world issues that really offend responsible sensibilities continue to get worse. Compared to these, this ad barely twitches the meter.

  • Really? You’re going to pull out the “at least we didn’t objectify women” argument? This feminist thinks that just makes it worse. Rule #1 of serious apologizing: don’t fuck it up with a lame excuse.

    Your ad was so horrible, so off-key, so insensitive, that my husband and I sat in our living room with our mouths open like dying fish. I am unsubscribing to Groupon. If you want to save your brand, pure unadulterated groveling is your only recourse at this point.


  • Andrew –

    I loved the commercials. The old bait-and-switch was great. You were going down one path, and jumped to a different one, and I thought it was great!

    For all those whiny people who don’t have a sense of humor – GET OVER IT!

    Try some Tibetan fish curry, it really is amazing and it will put a smile on your face.

    The Super Bowl ads are not about trying to create world peace, it’s all about marketing, and getting your name recognized.

    If you take a commercial so seriously, then you have bigger problems. Go bitch to your shrink about them.

  • Having never heard of Groupon before, I came away from the Super Bowl ad with a very bad taste in my mouth (so to speak…). One shouldn’t have to go digging to find the hidden meaning in an advertisement.

    Yes, lightening up is always a good thing to do. But having spoken with many Tibetans in exile in India and elsewhere, who, indeed, do inspire one to lighten up :), I don’t think they would agree. To appear to make light of the Tibetans’ situation in front of 100+ million viewers, most of whom likely have no idea your hidden agenda (make a buck and donate to good causes), this seems, at best, a crass way to do business.

    At the end of the day, the mere fact that one needs to be or to become an insider to get the joke is quite off-putting. Of course, if you don’t want the uninformed masses on your side, that’s a different story–and I’d recommend avoiding the Super Bowl as a time to advertise.

    Will go elsewhere with my cash and donate to these charities directly.

  • So…where’s the apology? I still don’t see it.

    “That you didn’t mean to be offensive doesn’t mean you weren’t.” Thank you. Groupon, take note. I don’t care if you had the best interests of Tibet in mind. You offended and alienated a lot of current and prospective customers.

    Shame on you.

  • I thought they were funny, everyone I know thought they were funny. Don’t let a vocal minority spoil the fun Groupon, the ads were not lost on those with a sense of humor and understanding of reality.

  • I am sorry but if you needed five paragraphs to explain your :30 commercial, you have some issues. I think a better tact would be admit that the commercial did not work, apologize and move on.

  • Andrew,

    Kudos, sir. You’ve defense and explanation are absolutely spot on. Your ads had exACTly the intended effect on this viewer. I’m proud of you for standing by your campaign.

    Unfortunately a particular whining demographic did not instinctively comprehend your intelligent and spot-on parody of advertising and causes. Don’t bend to them! Keep telling the truth through your sardonic wit.

    Bram Floria

  • After the commercial first aired, I wrote in to Groupon’s customer service to express to them that the Tibet ad was offensive. In the response that I received, they wrote, in part: “We apologize that the ad did not tickle your humor.” Seriously? After Groupon screwed up, its employees are going to continue to be smartasses?

    I’ve unsubscribed and have begun a campaign to urge everyone I know (including potential customers) to stay away.

  • Loved the ads, something new and fresh. Try some decaf people and relax…it’s like some of you are waiting to point the swords and someone.

  • I find it hard to believe that with all the money spent on a Super Bowl ad you could have botched your message this badly.

    This blog helped although I agree with others this is an explanation albeit a good one, when what is needed is an apology

    You really owe the people of Tibet a series of real ads drawing attention to their plight and run with banners of where to send donations and how to help.

    These are difficult and perilous times for an extraordinary group of people whose culture and belief system embracing compassion and wisdom is in danger of being wiped from the face of the earth. It’s bad enough they are caught in the crossfires of the Chinese and a suspicious Indian government, but now we can add clueless Americans with enough money to display completely unfathomable, crass ads before millions of flummoxed viewers. How can that possibly help anyone

  • I think the Timothy Hutton spot is written in such a way that it digs its own grave when talking about “the people of Tibet are in trouble”. Since we are talking about people that really puts a human face on it, coupled with the fact that we see the CU shot of the two children and the old Tibetan man which makes you more empathetic to their plight.
    So at that moment you really aren’t in the mood for a joke nor is there enough levity within the scene to make you shake loose that sad empathy built up in the first half of the ad.

    The Cuba Gooding one is great and the Liz Hurley one isn’t so bad but it is still has a more abrupt transition. The punch line is much better for this ad however, and I think it successfully pulls the viewer out of any distress about the state of our rainforest.

    One ad poorly crafted ruins it for the rest of them. Maybe if the Hutton spot had been the last one seen, the premise for the ad would have carried the “group” on and made that one less of a shock.

    Mr. C

  • I half watched the Superbowl, I never really watch it anyway. It’s the epitome of our American over indulgence as it is. I missed this controversial ad, but just now saw it on YT.
    Congrats, it worked, you pissed a lot of people off and now more know about Groupon. Looks like you scrambled to “make things right” after the backlash and someone helped you write an explanation of your actions. Too bad you couldn’t find it within yourself to just say “we’re sorry”, seriously….did your attorneys instruct you not to? This country needs business people of integrity, not an attitude of “we know better than you and you should get our humor” – That type of startup whiz kid attitude is something that will eventually come back to bite you in the a**.

  • Our son worked in high powered advertising agencies in San Francisco for years (until he burned out and went to banking! LOL!) and when we would question him about why some of the ads were so vague we couldn’t remember what they were about right after we had seen them, he would say that the important thing was that you had a good FEELING about them so that next time you saw an ad for the same product or company you would be predisposed to like THAT one. As ridiculous as that philosophy sounded — I wish you had at least accomplished that goal. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I’m predisposed to be highly critical of the next Groupon ad I see. I’m sure it seemed like a clever idea during the presentation — but didn’t you run it by any focus group before laying out that much money for TV time?? I’m sure you’ll recover, but I hope your honchos have learned something genuine.

  • Whoops. You need to hop back in the time machine about the time production for ads concluded and screened ads in front of focus groups. Focus group would have told you what every one is telling you now – the ad for Tibet was off putting. Even the whale one is off target. We all get it you were trying to be irreverent and cute. Big time fail.

  • Dear Andrew,

    I am a Tibetan and want to let you know that although I feel the ad was poorly executed, I applaud your intention to help the Tibetans. In my experience this is the first time that I have seen a company publicly show its support for a Tibetan cause by spending millions on an ad and try to reach the masses so as to fundraise for a Tibetan organization. Business wise this may not have been a good investment; but I want to commend you for your efforts and to let you know that there is a group of Tibetans (small as they may be) who appreciate your sentiments. I hope this negative experience does not deter you from supporting Tibetan causes again and that in the future you will consider the cultural and political sentiments from the perspective of the people whose causes you are trying to support. I would also add that had Tibet Fund (or the other charities you were promoting) been mentioned on your ad, the publicity would have helped both Groupon and the charity. And finally, as a Groupon supporter, I think an apology should be offered to those who were offended by your ad because the fact remains that they were offended. At the very least it would certainly help those of us who wish to speak in your defense.

    By the way, I am a Groupon customer and do not intend to close my account. I made my donation to Tibet Fund and hope others will do the same.

    P.S. My uncle asked me to say thank you as well. He feels the same way as I do about this situation.

  • Marketing for Dummies – Know Your Audience
    Rule 1 If they have to guess, you goofed.
    Rule 2 If you have to explain, see Rule 1.
    Rule 3 If anyone was offended, apologize.
    Rule 4 If you mention a nonprofit, it’s ALL about them.
    Rule 5 If it’s not CLEARLY different, see Rule 1.

    Your message: “Absolve your guilt, save money on guilty pleasures.”

    If you were the middle man sending the saved money, per ad code coupon to the Rain Forest, Greenpeace, etc.

    It would make sense, but it’s still crass.

    If Tibetan culture is dying, how does the fish soup in Chicago served to Timothy Hutton say anything except ‘we get it cheaper while it lasts’?

    sen·si·tive –adjective
    requiring tact or caution; delicate

    Dying whales, cultures and resources are globally sensitive issues, period. Tact and caution do not go with humor.

    Think about it.

  • @Kenneth

    You said: “I bet none of you are probably bitching out GoDaddy.com for their sexist ads that obviously objectified women”

    Actually, every single person I know personally who is upset about the Groupon ad also hates GoDaddy. We just don’t waste our time on them because it’s clear they’re so entrenched in their misogyny that they won’t listen.

    I think most of us are complaining to Groupon because we hoped they would be responsive, and you know, actually care about offending a significant portion of their current and potential customers.

    So far, it isn’t looking good, though…

  • I’m saying goodbye to Groupon because of your ads. Goodbye!

  • The CEO does not owe anyone an apology. Please don’t cave in and give them one. The people who have created this huge stink need to get over themselves and stop demanding apologies for wrongs never committed. Instead, everyone who has participated in this mass bullying attempt needs to apologize to the effected charities who may have had their donations impaired this week due to all the noise from this whining. They could maybe even lift a finger and make a donation themselves — quite possibly their first actual charitable donation.

    No one has the right to go through life unoffended. And, no one has the right to demand that others explain humor to them which they failed to understand due to being uninformed or simply not paying attention. This explanation should not have been required — certainly not an apology for doing something right.

    Along with the Tibetans, the whales, and the rain forests, the dumbing down of our wonderful society is another huge tragedy in the spotlight today. You people didn’t get the joke. Stop embarrassing yourselves and start reading up on a little thing they call reality. Phone your government representatives and demand that they make funding for education a priority so we don’t keep accelerating this trend.

    I am not a Groupon user. I had not heard about them until a few months ago in the news. I was stunned at the boldness of these ads when I first saw them, and when I reviewed them, I was quite impressed. I will probably sign up now to learn more. So, there is a conversion for you to offset one of the fools who are cancelling because they couldn’t take a joke.

  • “Our ads highlight the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues, making fun of Groupon. ”

    Huh? This kind of thinking is way too meta for a 30 sec spot. It does not come across at all that you’re poking fun of yourself.

  • I find your ads shallow, belittling and insensitive. Using the suffering of a whole people and country for the amusement and profit of your company and the misguided souls who actually found it funny is wrong.

    I didn’t watch the Super Bowl but so many people commented on how tasteless it was I YouTubed it. You’re trying to make light of a country’s circumstances for commercial gain? I need to be remedial and backwards to not find that personally offensive. Whoever doesn’t needs to grow some self respect, dignity and awareness of world economics.

  • the superbowl ads were great! very funny and clever. i think the causes were not trivialized and we are allowed to laugh once in a while.

  • As a long-time American supporter of the Tibetan people, I found your ad to be very offensive to me. I knew nothing about your company, and I’ll probably never have anything to do with it. Your name is in my brain now, but with a negative connotation.

  • Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. No spoon feeding social commentary, no political correctness and best of all Christopher Guest! This is as silly as people being offended by Ricky Gervais’ comments at the Golden Globes.

    Best of all, the ads now have people thinking and donating to the causes.

  • To those posting that the ad was funny: it wasn’t. The Tibet ad was offensive, insensitive, and in appallingly bad taste.

    Try recasting it, um, ooh, how about: “The Turks butchered a million Armenians but now I have a coupon for great baklava at Yossarian’s Falafel house.”


    Hmmm, instead let’s try “Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge turned 3 million countrymen into Ka tieu; you can enjoy this fine traditional dish cut-rate at Restaurant Battambang.”


    Instead of Tibetan fish curry, will Groupon be issuing a deal for crow?

    Never, given their smugly defensive retort.

    Shame on all of you.

  • I felt that your ad was humorous and memorable. One of the best commercials that the super bowl had to offer. Don’t apologize, don’t get rid of your marketing people. Thanks for bringing light to a good cause. The people that are complaining about the commercial are the ones that get annoyed with the UNICEF commercials for being too graphic. If you can’t laugh at yourself who can you laugh at?

    On my way to the donate page right now!

    Thanks Groupon staff!

  • Okay, so you know what they say about the lowest common denominator…

    Perhaps, in the future, you might try an ad campaign that doesn’t leave the viewers confused. Give them something that leaves them happy and feeling great about you. So, here’s your next ad campaign:

    EXT – Tibet – Day: Food and supplies are being distributed to hungry people
    Volunteer 1
    “Where’d all this stuff come from?”
    Volunteer 2
    Volunteer 1
    CAMERA zooms out with incredible speed until you’re looking at the Earth, then zooms back just as quickly into
    INTERIOR – My house – night
    I’m clicking on the Groupon site and you can see over my shoulder where it says ’30 minutes left, 2,642 sold’.
    ZOOM out….ZOOM in to
    EXT – couple at the park buying wine tasting on Groupon from their laptop
    ZOOM out….ZOOM in to
    Student – clicks app on iPad, Groupon site fills his screen…
    All becomes animation and as each scenario clicks on Groupon, money flies through the air to the Groupon headquarters. flows through the building into hands of employees, vendors and big baskets in the back, labeled “Our Causes”. Baskets are loaded onto planes that take off in different directions and we follow one toward Tibet and back to
    “Wow, that’s so cool!”
    Groupon logo fills the top of the screen and underneath it says,
    “Come to Groupon and Save…”

    and then fading in….”the World”

    (and finally, just so no one misses a thing)

    “A portion of every Groupon goes to help causes around the world. Come to Groupon.com and see the good work you’re helping us do.

    Whaddaya think?

  • I’m so glad to see that people are offended and actually care about Tibet, the whales and deforestation as far as I can tell.

    I think the ads are tasteless and were intended to be tasteless.

    What many fail to see is that no apology is necessary. They achieved what they set out to and that was: to bring to the forefront how appalling these things are and that they are issues that need to be addressed and fixed.

    Yes the ads are crass. They are supposed to be.

    Get over the anger and then see the real intentions and then applaud Groupon for their good hearts and the risk they took to get those messages out.

    FREE TIBET by denouncing China’s communist party!!!

  • Genius ad, very ballsy of you guys to wave a finger in the face of americans during the biggest, flashiest consumerist orgy this country has to offer. Thank you for pointing right to the connection between consumerism and willful ignorance of social causes. Hopefully when all the knee-jerking subsides, you will have inspired more people to do something with their lives besides loitering in the local wal-mart.

  • Thanks for the explanantion – I was one of the millions that was at first concerned with the ads. Having used your company, however, I decided to seek out a further understanding.

    I actually used the misunderstanding in a blog article about misunderstood intentions. I think this case points out some of the problems of our society that judges instantaneously without giving the benefit of the doubt.

    My post is here – http://wp.me/pa9Hw-6z

  • Last night, I remembered a European advertisement, one that several years ago had stuck me as a bit more tactful way to incorporate a cause, such as Tibet’s, into a brand campaign. It was for Woolite, created by EuroRSCG, Prague, Czech Republic. It is a sweatshirt, with a faded Tibetan flag, and the words, ‘Free Tibet’.

    As I searched for the ad this morning, it was interesting that this same agency had a second ad, with the messaging, ‘Stop Killing Whales.’

    They were tagged with the copy, “Don’t Let it Fade Away.”

    Both topics of CP + B’s Groupon campaign, and both much more tastefully executed.

    For pictures:

  • I appreciate Andrew’s effort to spin this, but it sadly has the ring of… “I was just kidding…some of my best friends are (insert your favorite subject of a tasteless joke).” Groupon made a calculated bet (abetted ably by CPB, which does this with nearly all its clients) to generate publicity off the controversy, and that it would net out positive. The odd thing is with a business growing this fast, and a brand that is well-positioned, why would you want to steer things so close to the cliff? Andrew and team… live and learn. Some risks are worth taking and others have little upside. This was the latter.

  • Sometimes a joke is just a joke, eh? Well, sometimes people commit suicide…should that be taken lightly?

    I don’t care what you think about jokes, if they piss someone off, then it stops being a joke, it becomes offensive. When you refuse to acknowledge that it offends someone, then it becomes discrimination.

    I am someone who is pretty aware of humor, and the fact that it can at times get at the irony of a situation. I for one get where the commercials are coming from. I believe that humor is necessary in life, because all too often we need to learn not to take things seriously. But it’s one thing when we use humor to make light of something at the expense of others. The citizens of Tibet, the endangered whales, the rainforests of South America, these are things that have a high amount of value in our world. We should be doing our part to take care of these things, of sustaining and beautifying our global community. I admire Groupon’s efforts to show support for these causes, but the fact that it even JOKINGLY mocks these issues is not acceptable. Think of it this way, would Tibetans really appreciate it if they saw that commercial? There’s no integrity there whatsoever. It’s like joking about your gay friend being TOO gay when your gay friend is IN the room. Sure they may laugh on the outside, but is it REALLY that funny?

    To the individuals who feel that these ads were not offensive and that I along with many others are overly sensitive and emotional, I understand why you think that way. After all, why take ANYTHING seriously right? I say you believe what you believe, you take on the stance how you want. But by no means should anyone be treated with disrespect in a public forum such as this because of their beliefs and asserted values and opinions. I am simply trying to advocate for a group of people that I have little connection to, and doing it in a way that maintains the integrity of their cause.

    I also imagine that this cause doesn’t directly affect some of you, so of course, it’s OK to see the humor in it to make light of a serious matter. That’s fair. After all, no one is required to take responsibility for those issues. It’s your prerogative. Feel free to agree to disagree, but please do not attack anyone’s character for wanting to make a difference because you feel we are being “uptight.”

    For those of you who feel that these ads were offensive, I stand in solidarity with you. To the folks at Groupon, I admire your efforts, but please check your conscience at the door. You may think you are doing a good thing, but please think about how the people you are “helping” are truly being affected by not just the MONEY you give them, but the attention, support and love. You can do so much more. You really could. Think about that.

  • Ok, after the tweet I have come to check out the story behind the commercial (as if I haven’t read enough articles) in your own words. Here’s my problem with it (as if you’ll actually read this, but whatever):

    I didn’t find the commercials offensive at all. On the contrary, I just feel they missed the mark. You mentioned in an earlier post that you wanted to introduce Groupon to all of those millions people who haven’t heard of you guys yet. Well, if you were trying to rope people like my mom and my boyfriend (who had no idea you existed) in, I think you probably failed a bit. Oh, they definitely KNOW of you now. Whether they want to buy from you is a different story. They mainly found the commercial to be unfunny (my boyfriend) and offensive (my mother).

    Like others have mentioned, if you have to explain the joke, that means it isn’t funny and/or was not well executed. And if you were seriously trying to raise attention to the charities, why not mention them in the commercial? Who would honestly think of visiting that site after seeing those commercials? Almost no one unless you follow Groupon already or read the tech blogs like Techcrunch or Engadget.

    Terrible execution IMO.

    And if you’re going to poke fun at Living Social’s Super Bowl ad choice, shouldn’t you come with something, I don’t know, better? I guess at least you got people talking …

  • As a Tibetan I appreciate Groupon putting the plight of the people of Tibet as a subject for one of its commercials during the Super Bowl. While it had its demerits the commercial did not cross the line. I even blogged about it.

  • That was spot on Chuck! I say that it wasn’t a stretch of the imaqgination to picture a Hollywood type thinking about the Rainforests of South America & then instantly change pace & wonder what time their Brazilian wax was scheduled for.

  • I doubt if a quarter (or less) of the people complaining have actually done anything about the Tibetan situation.
    Welcome to the real American pastime, self-righteous indignation and whining for sport.

    I thought the commercials were funny as all hell and I’ve never used your site before but I will now!

  • Don’t listen to the whiny loud minority…your ads were funny and endear people like me to the company. There is far too much hypersensitivity in the world these days and ads like this are a good chance to spoof that nonsense. The reality is people want to feel like they are a “good person” by pretending they care more about Tibetans, Trees etc than they do about saving a few bucks. We all know that’s bogus.

  • If anything, the people of America should be apologizing to you for their boorishness. Half the people commenting on this blog are swine and don’t understand anything unless it’s spelled out nice and clear with crayola crayons for them.

    Unfortunately, most people don’t like using their brains. But none of you are actually going to read this, what with being too busy huffing and typing furiously, instead of doing anything charitable. Look in the mirror, I know that’s what got you all pissed off in the first place, but try it again.

  • It’s nice to know the backstory, but probably 99.9% of the people watching the commercial, and not seeing this blog, have no idea.

    I’d fire your ad company, though. There’s poor taste, and there’s downright unquestionable poor taste. You have to figure out where to draw the line. Quite frankly, you crossed it by minimimalizing (yes, in the commercials you did) major topics that pull worldwide heartstrings, and crushed them like a bug.

    I won’t be using Groupon.

  • The main purpose of an advertisement is to tell people who you are, what you do and what you want them to do. Your Super Bowl ads assumed that everyone who saw them already knew all that [not even close to true, you are not Coca-Cola or Chrysler]. I had heard your name in passing a couple of time recently, but never had reason to find out anything about you.

    I only saw the Tibet ad, it started out to tell about problems in another part of the world, problems that need to be talked about, but then it switched to Tim Hutton pushing a way to save money in a restaurant that’s not even in my state. Why would that interest me? Only really well-known companies can make jokes about themselves and be secure in the knowledge that people get the joke. Groupon isn’t that well-known.

  • Nice way to censor people. A number of us have posted here and it says moderation await and yet days later none of our posts show up. That’s OK we can easily post to facebook and the group there are views of your ad and the fact that you refuse to apologize to the Tibetan people for making light of their freedom and human rights by joking the way you did!!

  • You guys need to lighten up big time. I would love to hang out with you just to see how perfect you live!

    The tibet ad was amazing and I get it 100%. No offense.

    I actually think it’s ridiculous that you felt like you had to make a blog post explaining it (which is UN-surprisingly still not enough for the people offended).

    The people who get offended by this won’t understand any explanation, they are the critics and they will always be so.

    Keep it coming.

  • Okay seriously people – it’s time to get over yourselves – personally I thought these were the funniest commercials of the night. I don’t think the owners of Groupon should need to defend themselves in anyway. Thanks for the great entertainment. Love the iPhone app! Thanks for the the GREAT DEALS!!

  • People need to lighten up. I thought the commercials were funny when I saw them.

  • “Unlike those ads, no one walks away from our commercials taking the causes we highlighted less seriously. Not a single person watched our ad and concluded that it’s cool to kill whales. In fact – and this is part of the reason we ran them – they have the opposite effect.”

    That’s not how it works. No one is saying you promote the death of whales or the suffering of the Tibetan people. However, you are turning a serious issue into a joke for the sake of your own benefit. That’s why it’s offensive.

    How about commercials that say “Slavery – a terrible practice…but a public lynching brings the whole family together”? or “AIDS – such a sad disease, but at least you get to meet cute nurses.”

  • Well, I wish you had stated something before or after the commercials stating as such. I truly think it was in poor taste and thoughtless.

  • I signed up for groupon months ago and have yet to use any of your deals. I don’t need 50% off self tanning joints or $25 off a tarot reading or 75% off a hot yoga class, or 90% off TGI Fridays.

    Get some real deals groupon.

    As far as the super bowl commercials – I LOVED THEM.

  • Fire your ad agency. Or the person in your own organization who approved these ads. I loved your product, but unsubscribed after seeing these ads. Not because they were overly offensive, but because the people running Groupon are clearly kinda, well, dorky, for not getting that these ads suck.

  • You wouldn’t do a parody commercial on the Holocaust, the Trail of Tears, Rwandan Genocide, or the Bataan Death March. You just don’t kick people when they’re down. And even if you had put a charity link at the end, the Tibet ad would still have been just as patronizing.

  • Apologize for what? Or better yet, to who? To all of you rich, lazy Americans? If you care so much why don’t you get off your computer chair and do something. Jeesh! Go Groupon!

  • andrew:
    the irony here is that all this attention will actually help these causes even more…well-played my friend. And, if your ever eating doritos—I would gladly lick your fingers…jk

  • I’m so offended by these commercials… which are still running… that I actually took the time to find this blog to complain. Of course, I couldn’t actually email Groupon on the main website because it forces a sign-up.

    You got attention. I know what groupon is… and I’ll never use it.

    The longer you leave the commercials on, the worse it gets. Use some commonsense.

  • I’m more offended by the low pay you offer for your writing positions.

  • Our nation is doomed. The commercials were hilarious in that they presented a serious problem, and quickly morphed to a barely-related trivial one. The humor was in the surprise transition, and it made me laugh (or at least chuckle). That so many people would find SERIOUS problems with the commercials is disheartening in that it demonstratres a total lack of a sense of humor. Very sad indeed. Who needs the buzzkill?

  • My favorite ads by far! It is sad you need to explain what was clear. I would say something mean about those who are causing a fuss but then I guess I would be like them so I won’t. I will say that I look forward every day to getting my new groupn in my inbox. Thanks!

  • I’m someone who probably isn’t in Groupon’s core demographic but close enough that I could easily have become a Groupon customer. My reaction, just mine, take it for what it’s worth or not worth: The world is overrun with snark. Nobody believes there’s anything that shouldn’t be made fun of, no matter how serious it may be. I think ultimately that attitude leaves us worse off as a society, and personally, I don’t like it. When I saw the commercial, I thought to myself: I don’t want to do business with, or be affiliated with, people who think this is funny.

    I got the joke. I just don’t like it.

  • Groupon. You guys are not listening very well. The comments here are running 75% negative with many suggesting that you stop the BS, apologize and move on.

    You are following the PR 101 playbook, “don’t apologize, tell the idiots that you meant to do it” oh and I know…. put up a donation button, so anyone who is really offended, we can point out how cheap they are.

    Brilliant. I hope that unlike other PR disasters, your disaster chases you around the block for a few more weeks.

    Bye Bye Groupon.

  • No matter how good the intention, the execution was awful and you ultimately failed. Just read this board – these are the people who like myself took the time to find this blog, now realize your intentions, and are still so pissed off that we will not endorse your company. I will actively boycott you. And the other group of people are those who just think it IS ok to make the Tibetan people suffer, to destroy the rainforest, to kill whales, etc. I agree with Laura who said you wouldn’t (at least shouldn’t) poke fun at the Holocaust – so why do it to the Tibetan people?

  • The narcissistic nature of these postings is amazing to me – if you’re on here complaining about a commercial, if you sought out this website to complain, you have personal issues.
    You should just write:
    ‘Pay attention to me!’
    ‘I matter!’
    ‘My thoughts are important!’
    ‘Please, please, please make me feel important.’

    No wonder the world thinks America is weak.

  • I don’t buy it, I think this is a bunch of back-pedaling. Aside from the insensitive trivialization of Tibet’s suffering, any ad that makes you think it is about one thing for 80% of the commercial and then switches gears and tells you it’s about something completely different is manipulative trickery. I love Groupon and have purchased and enjoyed many. Now I am embarrassed to associate myself with them.

    Fortunately and ironically these ads WILL bring attention to the causes at hand at the EXPENSE and EMBARRASSMENT of Groupon. Poetic justice, I say.

  • Wasn’t that I hated the commercials… thought they were dumb and had forgotten about them. Maybe the controversy is part of the campaign. Either way I don’t get it. It’s a commercial. You don’t like it? Don’t buy. Period.

  • How many people here watch “Jersey Shore”? Life is exploitation bozos!

    You all are hypocrites. Get over yourselves. I would say probably 90% of the people that post here have never donated more than $5 to any one of these causes.

    Commercials did there jobs. Anyone who boycotts Groupon for these ads need to take a look in the mirror…then spit!

  • Crispin Porter & Bogusky may have convinced you of venturing into the Super Bowl advertising bonanza with something catchy, but this was over the top. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. In this case, the choice to risk bad publicity for Groupon was worse than no publicity. I will no longer support Groupon and encourage others not to.

  • Wow…I’m going to say that many of you are being waaay too harsh. I understand some of your points but seriously!? Have a sense of humor and understand where they are coming from! I am with Robert S. and Katie…and whoever else agrees with Groupon. I didn’t even know there was an issue in Tibet and now I sure won’t forget it! And…reading this blog post…makes me want to support Groupon more for knowing that they are active in helping these issues. Those that are offended and withdrawing their support…they are the ones not helping since they are basically refusing the support a good cause…and basically…they are doing exactly what they are arguing shouldn’t be done.
    Sorry…but Andrew…thank you for writing this. I thought it was hilarious and so thank you for the laugh and also for the lesson…for someone not much into politics like I am…I’m glad I am now aware of this!

  • The message in the ads made as angry as when Geo W told everyone to “go shopping” after 9/11. I understand what you were trying to do, but when it comes across sounding like W… YOU MISSED THE MARK!

  • Your ad was insensitive – it was cheap and it was exploitative at the expense of People of Tibet. I don’t care if you were “trying to create awarness” about the issue using this ad. I can certainly tell you that now Groupon has forever been linked to this insensitive ad. What a way to spend your millions !

  • I kind of side with Groupon on the defense of this ad. I perceived the ad as self-deprecating, in that Groupon was actually mocking itself for the triviality of its own function and the importance it takes in our culture (seriously, think about how much difference could be made if all the Super Bowl ad money was channeled to these causes). I think by drawing attention to that fact, Groupon could actually be perceived as doing something fairly noble. It’s almost like they are trying to cope with the fact that they are doing something so meaningless with such a considerable amount of money.

    Yes, it’s exploitative in that it uses the plight of Tibet to make a joke, but every ad is necessarily exploitative, just usually without the element of self-reference. Ads usually just exploit our anxieties, pleasure-seeking, and identity-seeking to sell us something which in no way can satisfy the craving its exploiting. They also do so by objectifying women, reinforcing double-standards and unrealistic norms.

    So, I think this is just the wrong medium to make this kind of joke. Since its paid for by the same corporation it’s mocking, it won’t be interpreted as mockery. If this had actually been in a Christopher Guest film, I don’t think there would be any doubt that American consumerism and corporate exploitation were the butt of the joke.

  • Do not let Your customers feel that Your Ad is a smoke screen of CSR activities. Ads shoud promote Your good works, not directly Your business. That’s how it works 🙂

  • I appreciate the back story of what you were trying to do. And now that I stand back yes I understand the ads. However when you first see them it was very disheartening. I think if you had put a blurb in there about helping the charity it would have been ok. Thank you for the steps you have taken to resolve this confusion.

  • I thought the Tibet ad was hilarious! Clearly Tibet has serious problems. It wouldn’t have worked if they didn’t. Great job.

  • People get offended way too easy.
    I wouldn’t pull the ads personally, people need to loosen up and not read so much into things.
    The only problem with the ad is that it wasn’t actually funny. It was just boring.

  • I think this was a very poor excuse for an apology, and looks more like trying to pass the blame. My suggestion, change firms, go with one that has some background, experienced people, not just people that are trying to make a bold statement! You have done so well with the Groupon concept that I am appalled that you think that this type of advertising was ok, we all get the quirky comments that are placed under your deals of the day, and, most ignore them anyway, don’t be stupid and lose a good thing! Time to grow up!

  • Dumb ads. Poorly conceived, poorly executed. Trivialized important causes and made me think less of your company. No excuses.

  • “Look, these other commercials for Hulu were great, so ours are great too”! That made sense to you when you were writing it? You really thought that this was what to write in response to the backlash? Really?

    Clearly, what we all don’t get here is that you guys are soooo special and clever and funny that the rest of us just need to cut you some slack. You are better than us. The Dalai Lama himself should bow down and lick the lint from between your toes. This is what you think of yourselves, yes?

    Yeah, genocide and the annihilation of a culture is, like, totally hilarious. If other people at Groupon are as tone-deaf, thoughtless and defensive as you have shown yourself to be in this post, then it’s easy to see how that incredibly offensive Tibet ad made it to the air.

    What are you guys, 12 years old?

  • I can’t believe that people are saying they didn’t know there were issues in Tibet, do you live under a rock? Regardless, what you have done has caused unrepairable damage in incomes alone! You Affiliates have lost sales at ridiculous speeds! The reason that they were there in the first place was to support a company that they believed in, you have basically spit on them!

  • When the ad first started I was thinking: “oh wow, they are actually using this expensive air time to put the Tibetan cause forward.” Then came the rest of the commercial and I was really put off.

    One piece of advice, stop listening to any advertising agency for direction of any kind, these guys are confirmed scum and don’t care at all about you or your cause, only keeping your account.

  • Lighten up, people!!! Folks are wound way-y-y too tight. The first ad I saw on SB Sunday was the one with Elizabeth Hurley, and it was hilarious!!! Anyone who thought they were making fun of, or downplaying the seriousness of the opening situations, totally miss the point and need to take the corncob out of their ***. Because in the grand scheme of things, on a planet with 7 billion people, you need to be able to laugh and smile every now and then. “A little de-forrestation…” was PERFECT!!! It was the BEST SB commercial, and one of the greatest of all-time!!!

  • If this hasn’t been stated before…with a company as progressive as GroupOn why wasn’t a mobile aspect given to the advertisement?

    If you had the “Text…to donate $10” on the Groupon portion of the ad it would have been warmly received. People would have known you cared about Tibet and you would have actively raised money. Via a channel, mobile, that is a great vehicle for this. With the audience share of the Super Bowl…you would be the darlings of the press.

    Maybe next time.

  • I loved the ads. I thought they were hilarious. And the people that were offended, take a chill pill, stop being so politically correct. Get mad at the fact that you probably don’t support these causes enough with your own time and money.

    Great ads, very funny, did not make light of Tibet and the whales.

    Very clever.

    Well done.

  • I lived in Tibet for a time, so I’m fairly sensitive to the issues. Even so, I didn’t find any of the ads horrifically offensive. They did all seem a little off and little offensive, with the Tibetan one being the worst. I think the Tibetan one struck a nerve because it made light of “actual suffering people” as opposed to environmental causes. None of it seems worthy of the outcry being leveled against the campaign

    As many have said, the mistake in execution wasn’t the quirky ads, it was having made no mention what so ever of the charity campaign associated with the ads which left viewers with only a sense of callousness, without compassion. It’s the power of that “just kidding” said after the offensive joke that gives it context and brings the listener/viewer back after touching a sensitive nerve.

    I think this would have all evolved differently. I get when trying to make a 30 second ad that’s hard to squeeze in, but it really would have made a world of difference in perception…

  • Erratic and irrational to say the least. I can’t believe that you would think it be okay to air any of your commercials and then compare it to the Hulu commercial – “TV rots your brain”. There’s no comparison whatsoever. Were talking about genocide, deforestation, extinction … not EVEN ONE BIT comparable or funny. Tacky and tasteless is what it is.

    I’m not sure your goal behind these “so-called” campaigns, but I hope that it is what you say it is… because I hope it has set a fire under people like it has me, because I’m ready to throw down.

  • As a business guy, it was a rare opportunity and interesting to watch a company slit it’s wrists on national television. I’m not a Groupon member, but friends I was watching the game with were all scrambling on their phones to delete their accounts. Wow, what a reaction.

  • Making light of Tibet’s past and ongoing struggle (which includes the routine rape, oppression, torture, and killing of its people by Chinese military) is being too politically correct????? I don’t think so. What if it was happening to your family, your village, your people?

    It’s on par with making a 911, Darfur, or Holocaust Groupon ad.

    Makes me question the firm and the company for approving it.

    Heavily giving back, actively to Tibetan freedom groups, is the only way to make things right again (gaining back the customers you lost, making new ones, and helping a people that are in great need).

    Making light of human suffering is not entertainment.


  • SaveTheMoney.org link just goes to Groupon main page? Just another slightly smelly aspect to this.

  • Thank you for your attention to Tibet’s existing situation due to the said ad.

  • These commercials were great. Anyone who was really that put off by these ads has no sense of humor. I feel sorry for you.

  • Was that an apology? I missed it if it was. I emailed Groupon with my displeasure and received a very prompt apology from Christine. But why not an actual, real apology from Andrew. I’m sorry if what our ad agency upset you but I’m really not responsible…. is not an apology.

    Why not harness all the energy around this and get new ad ideas that will resonate with your clients and your prospects? How about some focus groups?

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