The Groupon Ads, Explained

The biggest loser on Super Bowl Sunday was likely Groupon with ads, including the one above, that offended. Likened to last week’s Kenneth Cole tweet debacle and dissed online, the ads made Groupon’s first pass at Super Bowl advertising seem like it would likely be their last.

Groupon chief exec Andrew Mason took to the company blog to explain the ads. (Updates after the jump.)

Mason writes:

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 Groupon’s roots are in social activism – we actually began as cause-based website called The Point, and we continue to use Groupon to support local causes with our G-Team initiative. In our two short years as a business, we’ve already raised millions of dollars for national charities like Donors Choose and Kiva.

Who knew?! Maybe if you already knew, but if you didn’t, how could you know?!

Mason goes on to say, that the ads were meant to be self-deprecating, poking fun at the often “trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issue.” He ends saying that they would never want to offend their customers.

The New York Times notes that the company has a history of stunt marketing, such as the Live Off Groupon campaign. Now we get it.

Update: CNBC is reporting that despite the criticism over the ads, Groupon’s clips have been successful. “They have over 50,000 new customers that have come on board since the ad ran, so its actually drawing the kind of business performance that we expected it to,” Miles Nadal, CEO of MDC Partners told the news outlet. Crispin Porter, an MDC ad agency, created the spots.

“You have to understand there is a difference between popularity and business effectiveness,” he went on to say.

Update: Mason has announced that the company is pulling the ads.

“We’ve listened to your feedback, and since we don’t see the point in continuing to anger people, we’re pulling the ads (a few may run again tomorrow – pulling ads immediately is sometimes impossible).,” Mason wrote on the Groupon blog. “We will run something less polarizing instead. We thought we were poking fun at ourselves, but clearly the execution was off and the joke didn’t come through.”

He goes on to thank those who supported the company through the past days and says the charities involved will raise more than $500,000 and the company is donating $100,000 each as well.