Groupon CEO Justifies Super Bowl Ad In Blog Post

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:”

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?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

8 responses

  1. Anyone thinking the ad was good. Take a minute and think if you would still like it if it showed, say, your family/nation in a terrible situation. E.g. “Americans are in serious trouble, citizens are being executed or tortured everyday for opposing a corrupt government. But boy do they make tasty fish and chips! Blah blah…”

  2. I think many people were offended by the Groupon commercials, and while Groupon is going to stick up for them, I still think they are going to lose business because of it.

    A great site to use to find the deals and sales in your area is They send you a daily email with the best discounts, so you can always find the best savings to use every day.

  3. 1. Reply to the Groupon daily email and express your displeasure and let them know you’re unsubing. Real customer service people read replies to the daily emails…I know this from first personal experience.

    2. Unsubscribe and stop using Groupon.

    Vote with your wallet, vote with your eyeballs.

  4. The commercial failed, just like Groupon will!

    Groupon causes more harm than good to each business that offers a deal with them. Seriously, how is offering something for 50, 60 or 70% off then sharing the sales revenue a good thing? If a business is offering $20 worth of product for $10.00, they then must split that $10.00 with Groupon, so the business gets $5.00, is this a good business decision?

    Sites like allow businesses to basically do the same thing, except it’s free!

    There are other (better) options available.

  5. Do any of you realize that the commercials are actually fund raisers for charitable groups that support the causes and the campaign has the support of those groups? Greenpeace has already made a public statement supporting groupon. People are always looking for something to be offended about, why not make sure the alleged victim even wants your misplaced outrage.

    1. Dawn, I don’t think most people saw the ad I cited as being a fundraiser. And if it was, what organization are we supposed to donate to in order to help the Tibetan people? People just don’t watch Superbowl commercials to be informed or be inspired to donate to a charity. They watch them to laugh, including myself.

      You also have to consider that what the people of Tibet have gone through, and continue to go through, is truly oppressive. It’s one thing to make light of environmental problems. Making light of what the Chinese government has done to the Tibetan people is just plain tacky and insensitive. I seriously doubt the Dalai Lama would like the commercial.

  6. Groupon’s CEO shouldn’t have justified the ad, nor should he have apologized for it. It was a not-so PC, tongue in cheek ad that was jarring, though I found the Brazilian rain forest ad with Liz Hurley, tied to Brazilian waxing, far more hilarious. The whole campaign was ridiculous for enlisting has-been’s and never-were’s and was a HOOT. Groupon is not a perfect company and they have their issues, but it is a great marketing tool for local businesses, so I hope they find more 80s and 90s rejects and continue the cheeky campaign. Relax, people!

    And let’s stop putting his “holiness” Lhamo Dondrub, the 14th holiness, on a pedestal. While what the Chinese have done in Tibet is awful, he and his predecessors did a nice job subjugating Tibetans to a life of serfdom, has engaged in his own form of religious persecution, offered no words to the victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, admitted he was a CIA lackey, and betrayed southern Tibet to India. He’s no Desmond Tutu, MLK, Mandela, or Aung San Suu Kyi–more of a Shah of Iran and craven calculating politician in a saffron robe.

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