So by now you’ve probably seen or heard the fallout from Groupon’s Super Bowl ad. The one where actor Timothy Hutton voices over the suffering of the people of Tibet and then shows his excitement over getting a huge discount at a Tibetan Barbeque restaurant.
I like dark humor and I like commercials that have that sense of edginess. But Groupon’s Tibet commercial was anything but edgy. I just kind of sat there with my mouth open and couldn’t believe what I had just seen and heard. And I’m a Groupon customer. I’ve also spent a lot of my professional life with creatives, and I didn’t find the ad “creative” in the positive sense. Oh it was original all right. It envoked emotion all right. But was this the kind of response that Groupon was banking its $3 million investment on?
Social networks have been ablaze with negative comments regarding the ad, the agency (Krispin Porter & Bogusky), and the brand. Just like the Kenneth Cole fiasco last week, this week’s “shoot yourself in the head” promotional stunt was brought to you by Groupon. The fact that it took CEO Andrew Mason a full day to respond, in a blog post, goes to show the lack of social foresight.
The “making fun of ourselves” defense by Mason just doesn’t cut it, because it wasn’t clearly communicated in the ad. Groupon didn’t give us the context, didn’t set up the joke, and the result was that the joke bombed, badly, for most of the audience.
Groupon’s Tibet Ad - [Has now been removed from Youtube -boooo!]
Supporters on several blogs including the GrouBlogPon itself have accused those who are coming out against the ad as “being corrupted by the hive mind” and that Groupon should not “kowtow to the masses.” I did neither. I made up my mind the second the commercial ended. I checked all my social circles the next day, with people from all walks of life, education, race, ethnicity, and found almost a universal disapproval.
I won’t put you in the GoDaddy.com, beer, clothing, and soft drink ads bucket that objectify women and play to the lowest common denominator on the planet. You don’t have a history of this kind of social exposure or marketing message.
But out of this ad comes opportunity Groupon. Appologize to those you’ve offended. Convert those that you can. But do it honestly, without the corporate PR spin that we’ve all come to recognize. And not just through the blog. Put all your social goodness (and you have a history of it) and energies front and center in everything you do. And leave them there for a while. Don’t stop giving us edgy ads, just set them up first, like a good straight man would.