Why Groupon's Super Bowl ads are actually brilliant and awesome

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I may still not know who played in the Super Bowl but you better believe that I know who advertised in the Super Bowl. My Sunday evening ritual of pretending to read books was interrupted by the controversy over Groupon’s ads. On Facebook, I saw friends unsubscribing Groupon, declaring their ads “tasteless!”.

Well, I rushed to savethemoney.org (Groupon’s ad repository) to watch these “tasteless” ads. And then I laughed. I laughed really hard because these ads are some of the most brilliant pieces of ironic self-deprecating advertising I’ve seen in a long time.

Isn’t it ironic?

Groupon took all the vapid, shallow consumerism in America and all of the trendy activism and then they rolled it up into a ball and threw it in America’s face. They did it with a wink and they did it to make fun of themselves.

What people don’t seem to get is that Groupon has philanthropic roots and that they actually want to help raise money for the very issues they bring up in their ads. They’re matching $100,000 in donations to the charities that deal with Tibet, Whales and the Rainforest. The truth is that American’s have short attention spans. Egypt is going through a revolution right now and it’s taken too long for the media to keep talking about it. Instead they’ve moved on to Charlie Sheen. These faux-philanthropists (or fauxlanthropists) in the Groupon commercials are only offensive in that they tell the truth about who we are as a society.

Trendy Activism

To get an idea of what I’m talking about go watch this wonderful satire by The Onion on this very topic.

How Can We Raise Awareness In Darfur Of How Much We’re Doing For Them?

Controversy isn’t so bad

Even though a lot of people didn’t get the ads, the controversy will probably play well for Groupon. Beyond getting a lot of people talking about Groupon, the controversy is bringing more attention to charities, as well. I haven’t thought about the rainforest, Tibet, or whales as much as I’ve thought of them in the last few days. In fact, maybe I’ll go make a donation on Groupon’s savethemoney page right now.



Dan, I get you and I love sarcasm and irony as much as the next guy, but WHO actually knew about their philanthropy BEFORE this?
Irony and sarcasm STING and while you get it and I did too, the court of public opinion is saying they were BAD and there are people walking away from Groupon and those turned off.
you are probably right that this will mean little in end, but having a horrible truth thrown in someone’s face is hardly the way usually to get them to do something

Shelly Kramer

Good post, Dan. I don’t know that they were brilliant .. and do think they pretty tasteless. But you’re absolutely right – from a brand recognition standpoint, they achieved a lot.


PS love the drop down tool bar you’re using on the blog – which one is it?

Scott Jenkins

These tongue and cheek commercials are definitely funny. I’ll even give you brilliant and awesome.

It would be nice if they, whomever they are, didn’t have to cry foul. Again.


I think the brilliance of these ads remains to be seen. I think that Groupon probably offended many people who will never actually go to the website and realize the point of the ads. They’ll be left with a bad taste in their mouths regarding the Groupon brand.

There is the philosophy that any press/publicity is good press/publicity but I’m not positive that this will be true for Groupon.


I thought they were fantastic ads. We in America love to say we care, that we own foreign tragedy because we saw a documentary once and all that but in reality we’re just a bunch of genteel racists. These ads mocked that while actually making a difference, which is much better than anyone with a “Free Tibet” bumper sticker is doing. Great post.


I understand your perspective, but that doesn’t change my mind that the spots were in poor taste–be they an accurate reflection of American consumer culture or no.

I do think you’re right, though, that, in the end, the ads will do more good than harm for both GROUPON and for the causes they address.