Groupon made a lot of noise with its Super Bowl commercials. Initially, before they ever aired, the simple fact that they were advertising before the Super Bowl was interesting news in itself. It would give a growing company mass exposure, and potentially make it a household name. As competition mounts in the daily deals space, extending that brand lead would seem crucial.
Then the commercials aired, and people got offended. The one that received the most attention featured actor Timothy Hutton saying, "The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy. But they still whip up an amazing fish curry!" He then went into the Groupon pitch.
Groupon CEO Andrew Mason took to the company's blog to defend the advertisements.
"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," he wrote. "Groupon's roots are in social activism – we actually began as cause-based website called The Point, and we continue to use Groupon to support local causes with our G-Team initiative. In our two short years as a business, we’ve already raised millions of dollars for national charities like Donors Choose and Kiva."
"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," he added. "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."
"We took this approach knowing that, if anything, they would bring more funding and support to the highlighted causes," he said. "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 the full post here.
Judging from the comments on Mason's post, the explanation wasn't enough for some people. Many of those that no see the reasoning, still seem to feel the whole campaign was ill-advised, and that the ads just didn't work.
No matter how you felt about them, they're still being talked about, and Groupon did manage to get its brand name widely discussed. The fact that Mason did take the time to explain will get plenty of media coverage itself, and that can go a long way for a brand's reputation.
The ads were Groupon's first attempts at television advertising.