Groupon’s Super Bowl Spot: #epicfail?

Super Bowl ads:  Almost as legendary as the event itself, they often garner as much attention and controversy as the actual game.  Among this year’s controversial spots was Groupon’s Save the Money ad series, which parodies everything from disappearing rain forests to poverty.

The three ads unveiled today, which each feature a celebrity endorser, initially appear to be ads for charitable organizations.  Then the subject unexpectedly changes to saving money with Groupon.  In one of the 30-second spots, Cuba Gooding Jr. mournfully describes the dwindling whale population, noting that “somebody’s gotta save them … But it’s more fun watching them jumping and playing.  And since 100 of us bought on Groupon.com, we’re each getting an $86 whale watching cruise for just $49.”

Twitter and other social media sites were immediately aflutter with disgruntled posts about Groupon’s insensitivity to these charitable causes.  Many of the people I follow posted tweets regarding their disdain for the ads.  Some suggested they would no longer use Groupon.  Already, several mainstream media websites and blogs have posted stories about the controversy, considering whether Groupon will gain or lose business from the ads.  Groupon itself has responded, providing Twitter followers with a link to the Save the Money Web site, which allows customers to donate to relevant charities.

From a public relations perspective, this scenario poses the classic “True or False: No publicity is bad publicity” question.   In this particular situation, I think Groupon got it right.  While some may be offended, many will find the ads lighthearted and funny.  For those who were offended, Groupon has teamed with charities related to its commercials and is even offering customers special incentives to donate to certain organizations.

In the end, it looks like Groupon will have the last laugh.  This mild (and no doubt, deliberate) controversy will give them a little extra publicity.  And since they teamed up with the appropriate charitable organizations ahead of time, we can’t really give them too much flack for their perceived insensitivity.

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5 Responses to Groupon’s Super Bowl Spot: #epicfail?

  1. cfetter1 says:

    I agree, I think this is going to get them a ton of coverage. In the end, people will still be using the app because they are going to get such great deals. Smart move by Groupon and their PR/marketing teams.

  2. hewhite says:

    These commercials are GREAT. How could anyone be offended? Of course Groupon was prepared for offended consumers to retaliate. But what ammo do they have once they realize Groupon is collaborating with the “appropriate” charitable organizations?

    The spots are witty and prove a point. Groupon saves you money. And since it is a lighthearted controversy, any coverage is good coverage. Case closed.

  3. nkumarat says:

    I think that Groupon’s PR team made a very smart decision pairing up with the charities. By doing this, Groupon is eliminating the population of people who might be offended by the commercials because it shows the company does care about whales and other sensitive topics. I think that the commercials have a funny twist, which will make Groupon’s ads memorable.

  4. dbaxley says:

    I thought the commercials were hilarious! It’s better to have offended people rather than no one remembering the commercial in the first place. I also agree that pairing with the charities was a smart move. Overall, when I look back on Sunday’s game, some of the most memorable commercials were for Groupon because of the shock value alone. I also have a little bit darker sense of humor, so I suppose I can understand the other side.

  5. mgingeri says:

    I would have to disagree that the Groupon’s ads are an “epic fail.” First, I think people need to realize the audience that the Super Bowl tends to. Yes, it is a large, broad audience but at the same time the audience is also middle-aged men drinking beer. Point being, I think that the demographic, along with myself and my friends, all found these ads hilarious. I even found myself laughing in class while watching it. Of course, there were some people offended, but many humorous things are slightly offensive. Look how offensive Tosh.O is and yet he is amazingly funny. At the end of the day, I felt that the cost of offending a few people was compensated by the laughs it brought to the majority.

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