Groupon pulls controversial Tibet Super Bowl ads

Fri Feb 11, 2011 2:51pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Deal-of-the-day website Groupon has pulled its controversial Super Bowl ads that made light of Tibet's oppression against China's Communist regime.

"One thing is clear -- our ads offended a lot of people," admitted founder Andrew Mason on the company's blog Thursday.

"We hate that we offended people, and we're very sorry that we did -- it's the last thing we wanted," Mason added. "We've listened to your feedback, and since we don't see the point in continuing to anger people, we're pulling the ads."

Several of the company's spots, which were directed by Best in Show's Christopher Guest, will continue to air on Friday because they were previously scheduled.

"We thought we were poking fun at ourselves, but clearly the execution was off and the joke didn't come through," Mason added. "I personally take responsibility; although we worked with a professional ad agency, in the end, it was my decision to run the ads."

"Our ads highlight the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues… " he went on. "To those who were offended, I feel terrible that we made you feel bad. While we've always been a little quirky, we certainly aren't trying to be the kind of company that builds its brand on creating controversy -- we think the quality of our product is a much stronger message."

In the Tibet ad, Timothy Hutton seriously recounts the country's human rights issues before the camera pans out to see him dining in an upscale restaurant. He enthuses, "But they still whip up an amazing fish curry!"

Cuba Gooding Jr. mentions the dwindling number of whales before promoting discounted whale-watching cruise and Elizabeth Hurley talks about imperiled Amazon rainforests -- before bringing up a deal on Brazilian wax ("not all deforestation is bad").

Mason said the company thought the ads would "bring more funding and support to the highlighted causes." Groupon expects to "net over $500,000" for the charities -- and says his company will match up to $100,000.

Greenpeace biologist John Hocevar (the founder of Students for a Free Tibet) blogged on Groupon that he supported the ads.

"Greenpeace is happily participating in the campaign," he wrote. "The truth is that the 'Save the Money' campaign and the commercial are really helping us save the whales."

HomeAway also re-edited one of ad campaign that featured a flying baby smashing up against a wall. The new ad shows a spokesperson safely catching the infant, handing it to mom and announcing, "Just a test baby."

(Editing by Zorianna Kit)

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Comments (7)
Connolly wrote:
Amazing isn’t it??? A big company with lots of money goes out and hires and ad agency with employees who think Beavis & Butthead deserve academy awards. Then they sit in a stupor while they watch the previews and can’t IMAGINE it might offend??? Get rid of top management because they don’t have an idea in the world about life… their heads are in their Bank Accounts.

Feb 11, 2011 3:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
TrinityHall wrote:
I think perhaps it as intended to be “..light of Tibet’s oppression under China’s Communist regime” not against?

Feb 11, 2011 3:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
in-the-money wrote:
Groupon, or Mason, blinked. Funny that he didn’t even when Google offered him a cool $6B for his company. Obviously he’s worried about his chance for entering the Chinese market. In a market when copycat websites can come up daily, every day lost is a piece of pie as big as Manhattan.

Feb 11, 2011 4:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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