Groupon used its own brand of humor in its Super Bowl spot--with mixed results

Groupon is extending its 30 seconds of Super Bowl fame with a controversy around the content of its ad.

The company secured a last-minute spot within last Sunday's broadcast, and ran an ad featuring actor Timothy Hutton attempting to draw attention to humanitarian issues in Tibet (and Groupon), in a comical way.

The ad spoofed broadcast fundraising efforts, and only let consumers in on the joke (and the genuine fundraising effort) when they visited the website. Unfortunately, many consumers seem to have not gotten the joke. The ad was ranked No. 54 out of 58 in a survey of effectiveness by Ace Metrix, and has been roundly panned in the media, and through consumer generated comments on the web.

From The New York Times:

“A lot of our panel thought it was fairly offensive,” said Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., referring to a group of students that assessed Super Bowl ads.

“It makes Groupon seem somewhat insensitive as a company,” Mr. Calkins said. “It might have done quite a bit of damage.”

Groupon has a history of spoofs--remember "Groupspawn"--the dating site and scholarship program for the children conceived by couples who used a Groupon on their first date? And, over the holidays, they launched "Grouponicus, the age-old wintertime Groupon holiday.

While Groupon may be getting dinged for their execution, it does seem on-brand for them. Perhaps consumers will get used to their nuanced sense of humor over time.

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