Commercials I Hate – Tibet (Groupon)

Timothy Hutton loves fish curry with a side of forced labor.

This one is pretty obvious. While most “controversial” Super Bowl ads of the past have feebly attempted to cross some sort of imaginary line of sexual innuendo à la Go Daddy (another series of ads I hate), Groupon decided to cross a very real line of good taste.

The idea seems to come straight out of a Saturday Night Live skit, and that’s the problem. And not just because SNL is a horribly unfunny show at this time, but because that kind of humor makes no sense in a commercial. In the context of a comedy sketch show, the parody is obvious. In the context of the Super Bowl, however, the joke seems very different.

Instead of poking a little fun at their own expense, Groupon appears to be making light of the very serious subject of Tibetan suffering. Timothy Hutton’s smug presence does nothing to alter this perception. Maybe they really were trying the “no press is bad press” route, as their ad has been even more heavily debated than the gender of the Darth Vader kid. But rather than offer a half-hearted “Oops, my bad,” the CEO has stepped up to the microphone to declare, “Many of my friends are Tibetan.”

Alright, not really, but his blog post has a similar statement (“We contribute a lot of money!”) as they try to put a positive spin that their plan was to make themselves look like bumbling fools and emphasize the plight of Tibet. Perhaps adding the information about where to donate BEFORE you run this for one of the largest television audiences ever would make it seem more sincere.

Here’s a hint, if you need a blog post to explain why your commercial isn’t offensive, it probably is. In other words, you just spent $3 million to offend thousands of existing and potential customers. Congratulations.

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