Groupon Super Bowl Ad: The Story Behind the Firestorm

groupon super bowl adI think we can all agree that when it comes to last night's Super Bowl commercials, there were some epic fails in the bunch. The Joan Rivers Go Daddy ad, the disgusting Doritos "The Best Part" ad, and the Mini "Cram It in the Boot" ad were among the worst offenders.

But one spot in particular has set off a virtual riot: an ad for Groupon (featuring actor Timothy Hutton) that critics say makes light of the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

But are they perhaps being a tad bit too sensitive?


The ad begins with a morose voice-over by Hutton while picturesque landscapes of Tibet flash across the screen:

The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy.

But don't worry, there's a silver lining to these people's tragedy! Suddenly, Hutton appears in a lively restaurant:

But they still whip up an amazing fish curry. And since 200 of us bought on we’re getting $30 worth of Tibetan food for just $15 at Himalayan Restaurant in Chicago.

Do you hear that, folks? People may be oppressed in other parts of the world, but there is an upside for us -- cheap fish curry. God, I love America.

Angry viewers immediately took to Facebook, Twitter, and the blogs berating Groupon for trivializing the decades-long tension between China and Tibet. In response, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason took to his blog to explain the intention behind the spot -- which truth-be-told is a lot nobler than you might think:

Mason explained that Groupon is actually raising funds for the plight of the Tibetan people; people can donate the extra money they save using Groupons to donate to a worthy cause. Incidentally, the ad was supposed to be a "spoof" on the company and typical celebrity-endorsed public service announcements.

If only it had actually communicated that message.

The bottom-line: The failure of the Groupon Super Bowl ad lies in its ineffectiveness not to mention incoherence. But to accuse it of being offensive might be going a little too far.

Which Super Bowl ad did you think was the worst?


Image via YouTube

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