Groupon Super Bowl Ads Draw Controversy

Social networking/discount site Groupon made a big ad buy during last night’s Super Bowl, but they may not be entirely pleased with the publicity they’ve drawn:

Groupon may not be making its initial public offering yet — but it has made its mark on millions watching the Super Bowl, anyway. What is not clear yet is whether the start-up has burned through a lot of good will.

The company bought its first television ads for the big game, starting before kickoff, with one theme: “Save the Money.” All the commercials are premised on saving something endangered — and a few bucks to boot.

There is Cuba Gooding Jr. lamenting the fate of whales, while touting a 43 percent discount on a whale-watching boat ride. And there is Elizabeth Hurley, intoning about the rapid deforestation of the Brazilian rain forest … followed by a note that “not all deforestation is bad,” like a 50 percent discount on a Brazilian wax in New York City.

Perhaps most controversial of all is Timothy Hutton, deploring the troubles besetting Tibetan culture. Before tucking into a plate of discounted Tibetan fish curry.

Here’s the video of the Tibet ad, which seem to draw the most negative reaction last night:

I’m not sure whether this will help or hurt Groupon in the long run — there is, after all, a school of thought that says there’s no such thing as bad publicity — but it strikes me as a fairly tasteless way to introduce yourself to the American public.

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Popular Culture, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. John Burgess says:

    The Tibetan food ad caught my attention, and not in a good way. I thought, ‘What *ssholes!’

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    Due to some screaming babies in the room (real babies, not steelers fans), I couldn’t really hear most of the commercials. I remember seeing the Hutton ad, but not knowing what it was for. I thought it was just a typical celebrity advocacy ad, paid for by the Sierra Club or the like.

    Now that I’ve seen what it really was…wow…

    For anyone who likes Groupon, btw, there is a very similar service called LIvingSocial, only with no limits on the amount of coupons one can buy. I think I just may move away from Groupon entirely.

  3. roger says:

    I’m sure a number of people will call Go Daddy’s ad tasteless too.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    Joan Rivers as a Hot Babe making suggestive comments? Yeah, I guess you can count me in amongst those who thought Go Daddy’s ad was tasteless. Actually, “gross” might be a better word…

  5. MarkedMan says:

    Oh, and by the way, after several Superbowl’s worth of ads, I still don’t know what product Go Daddy sells.

  6. PJ says:

    I really can’t understand the controversy.

  7. I thought they were a funny and long called for mocking of the producers of overly santimonious and emotionally manipulative charity fundraising ads.

    Sadly, it’s a group that’s also know for their complete lack of humor, so the results are predictable.