Groupon Superbowl Ad Makes Light Of Tibet's Political Turmoil

They may have been using controversy to get more press for their company, but Groupon's Superbowl ad that makes light of the troubles Tibet has with China may well backfire on them.

When the ad - which starts as a solemn account of Tibet's troubles - turned into a claim that Tibetans can "whip up great fish curry" and if you use Groupon you can get $30 worth for $15, the company rapidly came under fire on Twitter - the platform many were using to communally follow the Superbowl and its ads.

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What was Groupon thinking? Andrew Mason Groupon founder responded on the company blog: "The gist of the concept is this: When groups of people act together to do something, it's usually to help a cause. With Groupon, people act together to help themselves by getting great deals. So what if we did a parody of a celebrity-narrated, PSA-style commercial that you think is about some noble cause (such as "Save the Whales"), but then it's revealed to actually be a passionate call to action to help yourself (as in "Save the Money")?"

It was really a no win ad - they are trying to get in to China and if seen as drawing attention to Tibet it may get flak from the Chinese government. And then there is the possible backlash in the US. Ir is the company counting greed will overpower any negative association? They forget LivingSocial, their major competitors also had an ad.

They even had a promoted Tweet about helping your company. Maybe they can show you how to use 50% of your brain.

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.