The group coupon buying site Groupon may have damaged its image forever, thanks to a series of Super Bowl ads that were…actually pretty funny. The first one leads in with Timothy Hutton doing a charity commercial-style introduction about the horrors of Chinese-dominated Tibet…and then abruptly bragging about a groupon deal for dirt cheap Tibetan food. The follow-up ad was a plea from Cuba Gooding Junior to protect the whales…that is almost immediately abandoned because whale-watching is “more fun”.
Both the commercials are fairly well done spoofs of legit charity ads, and there doesn’t really seem to be any malicious intent behind them. Groupon intended them to be a fun way to announce their intent to donate to Greenpeace, The Tibet Fund and other charities. Many found the ads offensive and insensitive, throwing their complaints onto twitter and private blogs by the thousand.
The Tibet video has more dislikes than likes on YouTube, and China is pretty much unhappy with anyone mentioning Tibet for any reason. Which doesn’t bode well for the service’s plans to expand in that region. With any luck, most people will take this for the joke (arguably in poor taste) that it was. But Groupon may have to sweat the fallout from this for a long time to come.