Come on, cut Groupon some slack!

If you were offended by the Super Bowl ads, then it means the joke went over your head

Technology trends and news by Faith Merino
February 10, 2011
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When I got my first glimpse of Groupon’s Tibet Super Bowl commercial, I’ll admit I winced a little bit (after I laughed my ass off, that is), knowing that those unfamiliar with Groupon probably wouldn’t catch the mock-PSA joke.  But isn’t some of the venom being shot Groupon’s way getting a little out of hand? 

For example, this headline from “Does Groupon Think Their Customers are Mindless?”  The author reasons that he and other riled consumers were “turned off by the suggestion that we as customers are so mindless we’d rather save a few bucks than live our lives at a slightly deeper level.” 

Let’s not get silly, now.  I highly doubt that anyone felt insulted by Groupon’s ads.  If anything, such a suggestion shows just how far over that author’s head the Groupon ad went.  The whole point of the ads was to poke fun at blowhard celebrities who make a hobby out of championing causes. 

“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?” Andrew Mason blogged on Monday, following the uproar that the Super Bowl commercials created.

The problem was that, unfortunately, those who weren’t familiar with Groupon’s unique brand of humor were not in on the joke, and Groupon didn’t include any promotional URL or donation info to point viewers to the SaveTheMoney site, where they could donate to Greenpeace, The Tibet Action Fund, BuildOn, and the Rainforest Action Network. Both Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network have rallied in Groupon’s defense.

“Saying that saving $50 on a Brazilian wax is more important than saving Brazilian rainforests, or that getting a cheap fish curry made by Tibetan refugees in Chicago is more important than their liberation from Chinese occupation, is obviously going to piss people off. But then again, that was the point,” wrote Jenn Breckenridge in the Rainforest Action Network blog.

But the crucial angle that I think everyone is missing is the fact that these commercials were directed by Christopher Guest!  Hasn’t anyone seen “This is Spinal Tap”?!  That whole movie is about vapid, blowhard celebrities (if you haven’t seen it, get thee to Netflix).  Guest created the “mockumentary” category, which involves a total deadpan, straight-faced delivery of ludicrous content, much like what you see in the Groupon commercials.

So while you’re waiting for “This is Spinal Tap” to arrive in your mailbox, cut Groupon some slack.  Just because some people didn’t get the joke doesn’t mean they “live their lives at a slightly deeper level” than Groupon.  It just means they were too slow to get the punchline. 

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