on groupon and tibet

So Groupon, that favorite daily-deal website of thousands across the country, ran a Superbowl ad.

And then. Shit, meet fan.

I’m not going go through it all, if you missed the story this writer did an excellent job recapping. Basically, they tried to make a funny and failed.

One of the main defenses I’ve seen of Groupon’s Superbowl ad (and the entire campaign) is something along the lines of, “C’mon y’all, really? If you knew anything about Groupon you’d know they were just funning.” You can see variations of this in the comments of the CEO’s response to the backlash.


Isn’t the point of buying a REALLY EXPENSIVE Superbowl ad to reach people who have NO IDEA who you are?

I mean, keep your sense of humor intact, sure, but recognize that you’re about to spread your message to millions of people who have never heard of you before, let alone looked at your About page to see that you sprouted off from a charity organization and have a quirky sense of humor. Don’t use the Superbowl as a platform for your inside-baseball ads. There just aren’t enough insiders.

I’m not canceling my Groupon subscription, as many others are or did. I do think Groupon’s decision to run these ads was a poor one, but it wasn’t a malevolent one. I tend to judge on intent, not execution. I get the intent. The fact that they had Greenpeace, buildOn, The Tibet Fund, and the Rainforest Action Network signed up BEFORE the ads ran and caused a fuss goes a long, long way. But their execution failed miserably and it would be really nice if they apologized. Regardless of their intent, the fact is they DID offend people. Digging in their heels and going, “well WE think it’s funny!” isn’t going to help them.

So yeah, I’m not canceling but honestly I don’t use Groupon much anyway. I think I’ve bought two deals in the past year? I tend to be picky; if you buy the “deal” and then don’t use it, you’ve actually lost money. (I know! Math!) So the voice of my dollar isn’t really very strong in this instance, but there it is.

What do you think? If you have a Groupon subscription, did you cancel it? Do you think everyone’s overreacting?

One final thing I discovered while rambling around the internet was just how bad a deal Groupon can be for small business owners. Now, yes, every person is responsible for their own business and they shouldn’t sign up if they don’t understand what they’re in for, but I’ll just say: keep in mind when using a 50%-off Groupon that the business is only receiving about 25 cents on the dollar. Businesses should really be filing Groupon under advertising expenses, but it seems Groupon’s track record in explaining things clearly may not be so great.


7 thoughts on “on groupon and tibet

  1. I didn’t see the ad until you wrote about it. Probably because I watched the Superbowl at a bar with a TV the size of an iPod Nano.

    As for Groupon, I bet they’re wishing they took the $6 billion from Google just about now. The commercial was a poor decision on their part. Their CEO’s explanation was lame. He should have just apologized and moved on. If they had any sense, they would have added a bumper at the end of the commercial explaining that Groupon donates X amount of dollars to The Tibetan Fund, etc., etc. If they were making fun of themselves, they were way too subtle about it. If they wanted to go that route, they should have been louder and more bombastic when switching from the Free Tibet part of the commercial to the discount Tibetan food part. To compare it to last year’s Betty White/Abe Vigoda Snickers commercial (failingly reproduced with this year’s Richard Lewis/Rosanne Barr Snickers commercial), Groupon really hit Betty White. In the Snickers commercial, we don’t really believe that Betty White is being hit by a linebacker, and if we did, we might not want a Snickers. The setup is explained by the end, where the resolution shows that Betty White isn’t actually there, it’s just that when you don’t have a Snickers, you can play like her. With Groupon, there was no payoff for the Tibetan people. We get no resolution that their struggles have been resolved, or that our Groupon actions are helping in any way. People don’t like stories without happy endings (even if it does mean our food is half off). So, they didn’t really think it through. Instead, they bring up the plight of the Tibetan people, and say, well who cares about them, at least we can get discount Tibetan food. Ha ha. Your bad, Groupon. Your bad.

    PS– I have used Groupon twice to buy coupons. One for indoor rock climbing lessons which expired before I could use them and another for ice skating that expires on March 13th if I don’t use them before. I don’t think I’ll use Groupon again, only because I never use what I buy from them. I would have taken the buyout…

  2. I very much dislike Groupon for two reasons.

    1. They won’t stop advertising on my Facebook sidebar. I DON’T live in Philly, and I DON’T want 1 big coupon every day for Philly, and I’m NOT going to drive for an hour or pay $20 each way for a train ticket to use said coupon for a freaking cupcake with blue icing.

    2. They won’t stop advertising on my sites. For my niche, I don’t get good click through rates on Groupon ads. Yes, I can ban them from my ad center, but that involves work, and I’d rather just have them go away.

    3. They have a stupid name.

    Ok, 3 reasons. But seriously, they HAVE annoyed me for a very long time. Can you tell that I’m rather more irritated by them than a sane person would be for such minor offenses?

  3. haha tell us what you really think, Vixen! correct me if I’m stupid, though, isn’t problem 1 an issue with Facebook? it sounds like your complaints can be boiled down to “overaggressive advertising,” though, which is annoying no matter who it is.

    and what’s wrong with the name Groupon? GROUP! ON! like Rock On, but grouping! :)

    yeah YRG I think the $6b is looking pretty good right now.

  4. I find the name Groupon offensive because it sounds too much like tampon – not an item I associate with good times or saving money…

    I REALLY thought about deleting this comment after it was written, but I find myself way to amusing to do that…

  5. It looks like I can still post without you moderating the comment, so hopefully I wasn’t too offensive!

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