After a bevy of complaints flooded Twitter and Facebook about Groupon’s TV ads, which aired for the first time on Sunday during the Super Bowl, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason took to the Groupon blog to insist that the company was not poking fun at the real crises to which the ads referred. To stem the flow of negative reactions, the company plans to change the ads to include a call to action that will let customers know that they can donate to the causes at SaveTheMoney.org.
All three of the ads had an intentionally hokey, faux-celebrity-concern feel to them, but Timothy Hutton’s Himalayan food ad took the most flak as it seemed to poke fun at the very real human rights crisis in Tibet.
“The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy…but they still whip up an amazing fish curry!” said Hutton (come on, it’s funny!).
To get a better understanding of where the ad humor is coming from, all three of the ads were directed by Christopher Guest, who created the “Mockumentary” with his movies “This is Spinal Tap,” “Best in Show,” “A Mighty Wind,” and “Waiting for Guffman.”
“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,” wrote Mason. "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."
Unfortunately, the TV ads made no mention of SaveTheMoney.org or the names of the organizations with whom Groupon has partnered. And when you think about it, it really falls in line with Groupon’s whole aim. The campaign is making fun of self-righteous celebrities and the causes they champion for PR purposes. Naturally, Groupon wouldn’t make an ad making fun of blowhard celebrities and their causes and then put its own cause on its ad. Instead, the company preferred to quietly encourage users to visit the website through Groupon.com and donate.
Mason also added that subscribers who donate on SaveTheMoney.com will receive a matching amount of Groupon credit, which essentially makes their donation free.
Greenpeace also pointed this out in a similar blog in Groupon’s defense: “Greenpeace is happily participating in the campaign. The truth is that the ‘Save the Money’ campaign and the commercial are really helping us save the whales. Here’s how it works: Groupon is collecting donations from individuals to help Greenpeace save the whales. People can purchase a $15 Groupon to save the whales and when they do, Groupon matches that by giving the person $15 in Groupon credit. It’s a great campaign and it’s really going to help us in our work.”
Mason did not mention when the revised commercials will air.