NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Groupon may be brilliant at promoting deals for other companies, but when it comes to promoting itself, the company still needs a bit of work, as millions of viewers found during the Super Bowl this weekend.
Of all the advertisements aired during the big game, none seemed to stir up quite as much controversy as Groupon’s commercial, which seemingly poked fun at an ongoing cultural crisis in Tibet to highlight a deal the site offered for a Tibetan restaurant in Chicago. In the hours after it aired, Groupon’s ad proved to be one of the most talked-about spots from the game, but it also had the most negative feedback, according to one report monitoring viewer reactions on Twitter.
Now, the company is attempting to clarify its intentions to the millions of consumers who felt the ad was in bad taste, noting that this ad was not intended to make light of Tibet’s struggles but rather to raise awareness for the country.
“We take the causes we highlighted extremely seriously – that’s why we created this campaign in partnership with many hallmark community organizations, for whom we’re raising money at SaveTheMoney.org,” Andrew Mason, the founder and CEO of Groupon, wrote in an open letter on the company website. “We took this approach knowing that, if anything, they would bring more funding and support to the highlighted causes … The last thing we wanted was to offend our customers – it’s bad business and it’s not where our hearts are.”
This message seemed to get lost in the ad, which began as a quasi public service announcement for Tibet only to abruptly switch to a deal for Tibetan food.
“The people of Tibet are in trouble, their very culture is in jeopardy, but they still whip up an amazing fish curry,” actor Timothy Hutton says in the ad. “And since 200 of us bought it at Groupon.com, we’re each getting $30 of Tibetan food for $15.”