A case study in the riskiness of trying something truly unusual or edgy in the Super Bowl, Groupon's Super Bowl debut was acclaimed by Ad Age's ad reviewer in 2011 but a misfire with the public.
It starts like a pledge drive to help Tibet and ends with a celebration of discounts. "Good one, Groupon," Ad Age's reviewer wrote. "And the pre-game and post-game spots similarly turn the celebrity-cause-hectoring genre on its head for a laugh while managing to explain what Groupon does to the unwashed masses who've never heard of it."
Unfortunately for Groupon and Crispin Porter & Bogusky, the masses (washed or not) took "Tibet" as making fun of good works. Skeptics even wondered if the ad was a deliberate ploy to get attention via backlash.
Groupon CEO Andrew Mason said he was surprised by the reaction, saying the intention was to mock celebrities more than nonprofits and pointing out the fundraising widgets already in place at Groupon.com to help groups corresponding to each ad -- The Tibet Fund, Greenpeace and Save the Rainforest -- and match consumers' donations.
Well-known mockumentary director Christopher Guest filmed the spot, which starred Timothy Hutton. Cuba Gooding Jr. and Elizabeth Hurley starred in the other ads featuring, respectively, whales and rainforest “causes.”
Groupon wasn't the only Super Bowl XLV marketer whose intentions were foiled by an unexpected audience reaction. See also HomeAway's "Test Baby."Send credit info to [email protected].