Groupon’s Advertising Obscenity

In my 53 years on earth, I have never witnessed a more tasteless, vulgar and morally repulsive example of exploitative marketing than this Groupon ad that ran on the Super Bowl tonight. Can you imagine using the suffering of a repressed and brutalized nation to market online coupons? It’s mind-boggling. What’s next, Groupon? Perhaps an ad for discounted cigars made by the survivors of the Haitian earthquake?

Groupon should buy network TV time to apologize for this obscenity. How on earth did the management at the company allow this to happen? If you are as offended by this ad as I am, I encourage you to tweet your opinion to Andrew Mason, founder and CEO of Groupon.

Update: David Kaplan covers the outrage on Twitter in a good post on The ad “was in such poor taste, it makes the outrage directed toward Cole’s insensitive, tone-deaf tweet equating sales and the Cairo uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak seem mild,” he writes.

Andrew Mason Founder/CEO, GrouponUpdate: In a posting on the Groupon blog, founder Andrew Mason explains that the ad is partly satirical. “What if we did a parody of a celebrity-narrated, PSA-style commercial that you think is about some noble cause (such as ‘Save the Whales’), but then it’s revealed to actually be a passionate call to action to help yourself (as in ‘Save the Money’)?”

Actually, we think it’s a terrible idea. If the ad is intended to raise money for Tibet, it would have been nice to offer diners the option of sending their savings directly to Tibetan relief. But the ad neglects that detail.

Groupon is saving face by matching donations up to $100,000 to The Tibet Fund. Take them up on that.

10 thoughts on “Groupon’s Advertising Obscenity

  1. A completely tasteless ad, I agree. However, from a marketing-strategy standpoint, the company appears to have achieved its objective: lots of press coverage and chatter as we write, Tweet, Facebook and blog about the tasteless ad. And, now, of course, the stage is set for a Day Two story and another round of coverage, with the appropriate mea culpa from a lip-biting CEO, large donation to an appropriate non-profit organization, and so on.

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  3. All you have to do to witness a more egregious example of exploitive marketing is watch 30 seconds of any MTV show or commercial..You’re point is not at all convincing…would it be better for Groupon just to pocket the money? Only becuase you aren’t from a nation in crisis can you sit back in your easy chair and feign moral outrage. If your country was desperate for any money and it meant life or death, you’d jump for f**cking joy that someone, anyone was going to take a piece of the fat American wallet that’s typically has its eye trained on overcomsumption and slice off a little piece of to help you.

    You simply know not of what you speak!

  4. I certainly hope you’re wrong, Janice, because if that is indeed the strategy, it’s even more cynical than using the suffering of an entire nation to sell coupons.

  5. The ad says nothing about giving the money to Tibetan charities. It simply says to save 50%. Had Groupon added a tag line encouraging donations – or offered diners the option of having their savings donated to Tibetan relief – I would have no problem with the ad. It says no such thing.

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  7. I’m completely agree with you, Paul. It’s a repulsive ad (as well the brazilian forest version). Taking a Cause and make fun of it, it’s a really bad idea.
    I think we have a situation here around what’s “good” for “marketing purposes”. IMHO, Marketing it’s not (or at least, has not to be) about “making people talk about my company/products” or “hit again the next day with top stories”. That’s old school marketing. And I thought Groupon was a company with a fresh business mind and fresh Community Marketing ideas. They don’t need advertising.


  8. Well, I thougt that was kinda funny in a southparky way and not insulting at all. The whole Tibet trend has reached a point where it has become a perfect target for jokes. But I understand why some people might find it offensive and think that a mainstream audience was not the right choice for this.

    In Finland this wouldn’t even get noticed.

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