The upstart online marketer airs an ad that starts out looking like an homage to the people and culture of Tibet and it turns out to be actor Timothy Hutton looking smarmy and paying half price at a Chicago Tibetan restaurant thanks to Groupon.
(Groupon produced a second ad with a save the whales theme and featuring Cuba Gooding Jr. It was no better.)
Groupon’s Tibet ad somehow managed to be tasteless, inane, and insulting at the same time. The airtime alone costs $3 million in the high-stakes world of Super Bowl advertising. But that’s the smallest cost to Groupon. Instead the private company just erased millions of dollars in brand equity in one 30-second ad.
When Groupon turned down Google’s reported $5 billion buyout offer, many scratched their heads. When the company, which is making money hand over fist, decided to run a Super Bowl ad some analysts chalked it up to tech-company sock-puppet hubris. This ad makes you question management’s judgment.
I’ve had good experiences with Groupon. But Groupon’s got plenty of competition now and I’m inclined to take my business elsewhere.