In the battle between Groupon and does the most offensive win?

Last night watching the game (well, the ads) I yelped out If you have any stock in Groupon SELL IT NOW We're watching 1999 and just for feet happen again right before our eyes., then I wondered if this was a battle between the two to see who could scare off the most customers. Like 1999, something went very wrong in the execution of the gags in these ads. In 1999, Just for feet "Kenya Mission" killed a whole company, if Groupon isn't careful, this could be them.

What went wrong with the Groupon ads? Well, their strategy seemed to "make fun of the dying earth - consume MORE!"? and if you don't find that offensive in a post-90s world, you must be an Imelda Marcos clone. In the Tibet ad, it begins as if they're educating us on the plight of an occupied country, where the people are dying, but then as it turns out we're just happy to get a great deal on exotic food. What?

In the Brazilian Rainforest ad, Elizabeth Hurley tells a joke so crass Estée Lauder better fire her right now. Very har-dy-har-har Bud ad. No, actually, very Godaddy ad.

But Groupon thinks we know them, better than we actually do. I only really know Groupon from the annoying pop-up ads that appear whenever I watch TV on my computer, so much like Joe Regular consumer, I didn't know that Groupon grew out of a site called The Point, which let people vote for worthy social causes. Besides, The Point background is irrelevant when we're talking about what Groupon is today, and it's just a way for people to gang together to get discounts. Thus, consumption. En masse. Cuba Gooding, Jr. talking about dying whales just to mock it, seemed so very crass. But then, apparently everyone watching was missing the big picture;

@caff Please go here for more info on Groupon's efforts in helping Tibet. I think we all misunderstood it.#BrandBowl

When you hit up Groupon's Save the Money page, you'll find that the Cuba Gooding, Jr. ad is teamed with Greenpeace, the Timothy Hutton ad with The Tibet Fund and the Elizabeth Hurley ad beckons you to donate $15 to RAN. It's like a failed bait-n-switch, everyone who saw the ads were missing the joke, the "save the money" tagline wants you to save some, to be able to donate some. Of course, you'll have to go to the website to find that out.

Then there was, who depict a man getting so many great deals on everything he first turns metrosexual after all that pampering, and then finally transsexual.

Do you remember Bob Johnsson from the 1997 Super bowl? Didn't go down well.

In the end, Groupon climbed up to 4th spot on the Brandbowl because people were complaining about it so much, and Livingsocial seems to have escaped unharmed so far. Only time will tell who really won the game.

Update As noted in comments groupon explains idea here.

Since we grew out of a collective action and philanthropy site ( and ended up selling coupons, we loved the idea of poking fun at ourselves by talking about discounts as a noble cause.

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winedunce's picture

You really hit the nail on the head. Groupon assumes that we know them better than we do. And, you know what assuming does. The ads came across as completely insensitive and on the heels of the Kenneth Cole Tweet disaster this week, I just have to wonder if these companies might consider hiring more seasoned PR people to help provide valuable input and oversight of external communications. It is hard to tell a complete story in 30 seconds. Unfortunately, these guys decided just to tell a punchline to millions of viewers without giving us the proper set up.

Dabitch's picture

Groupon talks about their strategy here, and they side of the story confirms that they're poking a little fun at themselves and their The Point past. The execution failed bigtime though.

DatoMan1's picture

Saw the Groupon ad and went WHOA that must have made sense... between bong hits.

fairuse's picture

Bummer, I missed the anonymous boat.

That said, Groupon wins. I will be reviewing the tape of the Super Bowl™ later. There's that word 'later' again. Well, there was an ad party you know. Chores first.

caffeinegoddess's picture

Groupon CEO defends ads:
"We're realizing that should have been the URL in the ad, and not," a Groupon spokesperson wrote to ClickZ in an e-mail today.

No? Really? I wonder if it was CPB or the client who decided or recommended which URL to put at the end of the spot.

Dabitch's picture

With "" at the end the joke might have worked. Might.
The ads are over the top and feel disconnected at the end, I understand the joke now, just by looking at "Savethemoney" site, so I see where they're coming from, and how they thought it was a fun idea, but I'm still not sure this could ever work. Maybe they're a little too cynical, even for me. :)

caffeinegoddess's picture

When I tweeted about how awful it was that Groupon was making a joke during the ad bonanza on Sunday, someone tweeted back to me that I missed the point. I found that amusing considering it wasn't my fault I didn't get it. And I think you're right Dabitch, the idea was not either fully baked or properly constructed at all.

Dabitch's picture