Groupon’s Super Bowl commercial which trivialized the Tibetan people’s struggles for freedom was certainly in poor taste. Particularly considering the people of Egypt protest day after day, demanding freedom from dictatorship. Not that it is ever a good time to trivialize anyone’s struggle for freedom.
In case you missed the ad, this is the gist of it:
“The people of Tibet are in trouble,” actor Timothy Hutton said in the ad. “Their very culture is in jeopardy. But they still whip up an amazing fish curry.” Hutton then went on to tout the 50 percent discount he and other Groupon users received at a Chicago Himalayan restaurant. “Save the money,” the ads’ tagline said. “Unlock great deals in your town: Groupon.com.”
The CEO of Groupon, a Chicago-based internet business that offers discount deals, Andrew Mason, wrote a blog post about the ad. No where in the post did he apologize for the ad. He began the post by stating that he wanted “to take a crack at explaining why we created this campaign.” He then went on to tout Groupon’s charitable efforts, and listed reasons why he thought the ad was not in poor taste.
The first reason Mason does not think the ad is in poor taste is because commercials “that offend us” are “those that glorify antisocial behavior.” He gives the example of ads “that are built around the crass objectification of women.” Unlike the ads that objectify women, Mason writes, “no one walks away from our commercials taking the causes we highlighted less seriously.” He went as far as to claim that the ad has the “opposite effect.”
The second reason Mason does not think the ad is in poor taste is because it highlighted “the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues, making fun of Groupon.”
The third reason Mason gives is that Groupon thought the ad “would bring more funding and support to the highlighted causes.”
In the midst of his justifications for the ad, Mason points out that that the ad firm, Crispin Porter & Bogusky “conceived the ad.” Ah, the old pass the buck routine.
Mason ended the blog post with one line: “The last thing we wanted was to offend our customers – it’s bad business and it’s not where our hearts are.” It seems to me that if you know you offended your customers, and it is obvious from blog posts and comments about the ad that some people were offended, then an apology is better than justifying your ad.
What do you think? Should Mason have apologized?