2.08.2011

Venture Capital Dispatch


A full day after Groupon Inc.’s Super Bowl commercial drew a firestorm of criticism from angry viewers, founder and Chief Executive Andrew Mason issued a carefully crafted letter that stopped short of an apology. superbowl commercials

In fact, Mason’s letter takes a defensive tone, blasting other commercials for their “crass objectification of women” while justifying Groupon’s reasoning for its three commercials, designed as spoofs of celebrity-endorsed public service announcements. One ad featuring actor Timothy Hutton that particularly offended viewers–including those in China –touched on Tibet’s sensitive human rights issues before exulting about discounted Tibetan fish curry.

About those ads, Mason writes, “We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes – even if we didn’t take them as seriously as we do, what type of company would go out of their way to be so antagonistic?” He then points out how these campaigns benefited certain charitable campaigns.

Below is the full text of Mason’s letter supplied by Groupon. Our Super Bowl Ads, and How We’re Helping These Causes

I’ve been spending the day listening to the negative feedback about our Tibet Super Bowl commercial, and want to take a crack at explaining why we created this campaign.
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. 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. When we think about commercials that offend us, we think of those that glorify antisocial behavior – like the scores of Super Bowl ads that are built around the crass objectification of women. Unlike those ads, no one walks away from our commercials taking the causes we highlighted less seriously. Not a single person watched our ad and concluded that it’s cool to kill whales. The firm that conceived the ad, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, strives to draw attention to the cultural tensions created by brands. When they created this Hulu ad, they highlighted the idea that TV rots your brain, making fun of Hulu. Our ads highlight the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues, making fun of Groupon. Because it’s different – ads are traditionally about shameless self promotion, and we’ve always strived to have a more honest and respectful conversation with our customers. To that point, if the ads affected you, we hope you’ll head over to SaveTheMoney.org and make a donation (which we’ll match) – we’re hoping to raise a lot of money. superbowl commercials

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