By Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk
by Kelly Lucas, marketing coordinator extraordinaire, BBR Marketing
To some, any publicity is good publicity because it means you’re somehow relevant. Just ask Lindsey Lohan. Or, for that matter, Groupon.
During this weekend’s SuperBowl, Groupon aired three spots, their first foray into offline advertising. While I can’t remember too much about most of the other commercials that aired that night, I quite vividly recall the Groupon ads. The problem is, so do most other viewers, and they are not happy about them.
If you’ve not yet seen the commercials, before you go any further, I suggest you watch them (links below). When Timothy Hutton came on the screen to discuss the plight of Tibet, I thought “Oh, how nice.” But then he says something amazing: “Their entire culture is in jeopardy…but they still make an amazing fish curry!” Wait, what did he just say? It’s only then that you realize he’s hawking Groupon. I will admit my knee-jerk reaction was something akin to “Holy s#!t! Did they really just use the misery of a people to sell discounted restaurant gift certificates?”
I immediately jumped on Twitter and commented about how offended I was. I even went off about it to my husband, who, turns out, was completely uninterested in my tirade. “It was a joke,” he said. In an instant, Groupon and Tibet became trending topics on Twitter; many people shared my opinion and were just as upset. One of my Twits commented that he was immediately switching over to LivingSocial–bye-bye Groupon. He wasn’t the only one. The next day, people were still talking about how offended they were.
While other commercials were discussed, nothing seemed to strike a chord like these spots did. That’s when it hit me. This was the definition of a successful ad campaign. Everyone now knows your brand and is talking about you.
But at what cost to Groupon? There are now people who view Groupon as an uncaring company. Who knows, maybe they are. However, haven’t we all made inappropriate jokes at the expense of another’s suffering at some point ourselves? The only difference is that the vast majority of us have never aired our jokes on national television during the most watched program in TV history. Ever. Will people be so outraged that they stop following Groupon on Twitter? Are they so disgusted that they’ve already “Unliked” the Groupon Facebook page? I’m sure some have, but my guess is that most people will talk about how offensive those commercials were and then turn around and buy that half-price trip to the spa they’ve been absolutely dying for.
I must also mention that Groupon actually has a site dedicated to raising money for the causes that they lampooned. But that was never mentioned in the SuperBowl ads. Would a scroll at the end of the commercial explaining how you can donate to these worthy causes have made a difference? Could that one simple thing have quelled the backlash? I guess we’ll never know.
Groupon’s name is being dragged through the mud, but in my opinion, they will come out shining like a diamond in the end. So their joke was a little on the dark side. They’ve done what they set out to do, which is to get their name repeated, get people to recognize their brand, and to be relevant. There will most likely be others that jump on this advertising bandwagon and create commercials designed to shock audiences. It’s not like Groupon is the first company to think of this tactic. What about your company? Would your company ever do anything that daring/shocking/stupid? Is any publicity good publicity? I’d love to hear your thoughts.